A WAREHOUSE worker has appeared in court charged with two counts of arson following a massive superstore blaze last week which caused millions of pounds worth of damage.
Raymond Mark Cartwright, of Alexandra Square, Winsford, appeared before Chester Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday) charged with arson endangering life and of destroying by fire the Morrisons warehouse in Nat Lane, Winsford.
The 36-year-old had already appeared before Northwich Magistrates Court facing similar charges of endangering life and stock, and one count of gaining pecuniary advantage through deception by representing a person of previous good character, which relates to February when he took a job at Morrisons.
Cartwright, who worked in the warehouse as a freezer replenisher, was remanded in custody by Chester Crown Court until June 22 and is yet to enter a plea.
When firefighters first reached the scene of the blaze last week it was at first believed the whole store was doomed. Flames were raging at the warehouse, and yesterday store manager Dave Gratton said he had feared that hundreds of his staff would be out of a job.
But thanks to the prompt actions of the fire brigade and the design of the building, the store itself was saved and, despite extensive smoke damage, is to reopen tomorrow morning (Thursday).
Mr Gratton told the Chronicle: 'The fire brigade did an absolutely tremendous job.
'It would have been very easy for the whole lot to go up in smoke. I was there the whole time and, to be honest, the fire brigade thought the whole building would be destroyed.
'It was heartbreaking to see. I thought that could be the end of Morrisons in Winsford and we could all be out of a job.
'But the fire brigade was excellent.'
Mr Gratton praised the hard work of his staff in repairing the store so it can reopen this week.
'It is excellent going and I think the staff have done really well to get it ready,' he said.
'The whole building was filled with smoke and we had no gas or electric and we had to get rid of all the stock. It was a daunting task to begin with but we have got it done.'
As yet no cash value has been placed on the damaged stock, but indications given to magistrates suggest the destruction could be between £2m and £4m.
But Mr Gratton said: 'I don't know where that figure came from, we're still adding it up.'