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20 August 2011, 10:57
A man who spent nine days in custody charged with setting fire to a Manchester clothes store during rioting has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Dane Williamson, 18, of Salford, was arrested after £319,000 worth of stock was damaged at Miss Selfridge in Manchester city centre.
Footage of the torching in Market Street on August 9 was widely viewed on YouTube and also featured prominently in media coverage of last week's violent disorder across England.
Williamson claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity and said he could prove he was elsewhere at the time of the incident but he was charged with causing criminal damage being reckless as to whether life was endangered - which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
His legal representatives again pleaded his innocence when he made his first appearance at Manchester Magistrates' Court three days later but an application for bail to clear up the matter was refused.
He appeared at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday where a provisional trial date was set for January next year but was then later informed on the same day that the case had been discontinued and he had been exonerated.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said:
'In accordance with The Code for Crown Prosecutors all cases are subject to continuous review. We carried out a further review of this case following the discovery of new information by the police during their proactive investigation and concluded that there was no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.
'The evidence against Mr Williamson was based on recognition from visual recordings. However following the charge the police discovered CCTV footage which significantly undermined the case.
'As with any case, if further evidence comes to light at a later date the decision to discontinue may be reconsidered.'
A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police said:
'Following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service the case of Dane Williamson, who was charged with criminal damage recklessly endangering life, has been discontinued. He has now been released without charge.'
Meanwhile, police are now hunting the real culprit but have arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with the inquiry on suspicion of arson. He has been bailed until September