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Man jailed for wilful fire-raising after boasting on encrypted messaging service

A man who set fire to a house and a beauty salon has been sentenced to three years in prison

Organised Crime Partnership (OCP) Scotland officers – a team from the National Crime Agency and Police Scotland – arrested Lewis Connor, 27, of Orchid Way, Barrhead, Glasgow in November 2020.

Connor was arrested under Operation Venetic – the UK, NCA-led response to the takedown of encrypted comms platform Encrochat.

Investigators found that Connor was using an Encrochat handle to communicate with others regarding setting fire to a residential property in Bonnybridge and a hair and beauty salon in Hamilton in May 2020.

Connor was also convicted of conspiring to set other properties and motor vehicles ablaze.

In one encrypted message sent by Connor after he torched the property in Bonnybridge, he said “the place was like Blackpool illuminations when I left”.

Connor was charged with two charges of wilfully setting fire in relation to the property in Bonnybridge and the salon in Hamilton, and one charge of conspiring to set fire to various properties and motor vehicles.

He was convicted of the offences after a trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court on 14 May. He was sentenced at the same court on 5th July.

Donnie Lawrie, from the NCA, said: “Lewis Connor used Encrochat to boast about his crimes, thinking he was not in the sights of law enforcement. Unfortunately for him, we were able to access his messages and used them to link him to these incidents that destroyed the property of local residents. The NCA will continue to work with our partners in the OCP to bring Connor and criminals like him to justice.”

Detective Inspector Alan Cuthbert, from Police Scotland, said: “Connor deliberately targeted these premises with total disregard to whether anyone was inside and fortunately no-one was injured, however the outcome could have been very different. Although there were no injuries, a fire within residential premises can have long-lasting effects for the residents and in commercial premises it affects the owner’s livelihood.”

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