Groom set fire to wedding venue in row over drink bill

Arsonist bridegroom Max Kay said he was “out of control” and “mashed up” when he decided to set fire to the hotel where he had just got married.

Witnesses said Kay, a property developer and father of four, had drunk around 20 double vodkas over the course of his wedding celebrations and had been making sinister threats at the owners of Peckforton Castle after they fell out over money.

In a chilling promise, he told a hotel barman shortly before setting the fire that “nobody crosses Max” and threatened to “smash the owner’s teeth in”.

However, the Naylor family who own the hotel said they could not believe Kay would risk the lives of his own friends and relatives by attempting to burn down the castle while they were all still inside.

But, in an “act of madness”, Kay set fire to the room directly below the bridal suite where his new wife Stephanie was sleeping. There were 93 adult guests, 11 children, six staff working, five staff and two of their children in the hotel. The blaze caused £5.4m (€6.5m) to the hotel in Cheshire. Kay was yesterday jailed for six years.

Chris Naylor, managing director and joint owner of Peckforton, said: “It’s a miracle that there were no casualties or injuries at the castle, particularly for the people who were staying in that part of the castle, which were his own family.”

Kay had been increasingly angry about disputes he had been having with the Naylors over late payments for his wedding.

Trouble started early on Jul 19 last year when at around 4pm, the Naylors approached Kay and his new wife to inform them that there were to be no extra bills to be paid to guest’s rooms.

Naylor said: “In the lead-up to the wedding, it was very difficult getting money from Mr Kay and through the whole process really.

“On the day there had been a few issues with him wanting extra credit for bar tabs and things like that which with the problems we had had, we actually refused to do.

“I think that’s partly one of the reasons why we are where we are.”

Outlining the case against Kay at South Cheshire Magistrates’ Court in Crewe, Anne Rouse, prosecuting, said the bride had put £3,000 behind the bar for drinks as part of their agreement.

At 5.30pm, the meal ended and the party moved to the Great Hall for the reception.

The groom spent most of the evening drinking with his best man and another friend.

Kay was drinking double Grey Goose vodka and cranberry mixers.

He drank “around 20 doubles throughout the night”, Rouse said.

Bar staff said he was the only person drinking that brand of vodka and a bottle and a half was consumed. At 8.20pm, there was only £100 left behind the bar.

The barman went to tell the bride and groom, at which point the bride “became upset” and called the barman a “c*nt”.

Kay checked the bill and said it was correct and the bride later apologised.

At 3am, the bride went to bed, leaving Kay sitting at the bar, talking to the barman about the hotel owners.

He then said he was going out for a “cig” and picked up a lighter.

Rouse said: “He smiled, put it in his pocket and then whispered something in his best man’s ear.

“They both sniggered and the groom then said goodnight and left.”

In the chaos that followed while the emergency services were dealing with the fire, the bride was heard to say to her new husband: “I hope you have not had anything to do with this.”

When he was arrested, Kay told police that his head was “mashed up because everything had gone wrong” and said: “I was drunk and out of control. I don’t know what I have done.”

The court heard that he was under “enormous financial pressure”, had a big ego and wanted to impress friends and family with a glamorous wedding — even though his property business had failed in the economic crash.

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