Two teenagers who started a fire in a derelict building which killed a homeless man have each been sentenced to three years' custody. The youngsters, a 15-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl, started the blaze in the former headquarters of the Croydon Sea Cadets in Davenant Road, Waddon on June 10 last year because they were "bored". Sylwester Mendzelewski, 35, was found dead inside the building after the fire was put out. A post mortem revealed he died of smoke inhalation. The pair, who were 14 and 16 respectively at the time of the offence, were found guilty of manslaughter and arson at Croydon Crown Court on June 30 and sentenced today by Judge Recorder of Croydon Warwick McKinnon. He said: "I hope that you can draw a line under this and get on and lead honest and fulfilling lives which unfortunately Mr Sylwester Mendzelewski has been unable to do." Prosecutor Jocelyn Ledward read an emotional statement to the court on behalf of the victim's mother, Cecylia Mendzelewska, who lives in Poland. She said: "I never thought I would bury my son. The awareness that I will never see him again is terrible." Judge McKinnon said he accepted submissions from the teens' defence that the 15-year-old had learning difficulties and the 17-year-old a "very difficult upbringing" but they started the fire "mischievously and maliciously". He also read from a probation report where the 15-year-old said the pair had gone to the "haunted house" out of boredom with two other friends. His account described how the pair had set fire to a sleeping bag on a pile of tyres and fled the scene after the derelict building filled with black smoke. He said he had checked the building to see if anyone was inside and found no-one. Counsel for the 15-year-old, Miranda Moore, said he was "genuinely sorry" for setting the fire. "He has gone through the mental process of 'if only I had gone to college that day, if only I hadn't done this'." Handing down the three-year term to each of the defendants, Judge McKinnon said they would both be eligible to apply for release on licence after half their sentence.
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