A man accused of starting a major fire in Bellshill was found not guilty when the trial collapsed.
Residents were evacuated in the early hours of March 1 after fire broke out below flats in Hamilton Road.
Firefighters arrived to find two mattresses had been set alight and the flames were threatening to engulf the building.
Arthur Parkinson (52), of Hamilton Road, went on trial before a jury at Hamilton Sheriff Court last week, charged with endangering the lives of residents in flats above the shops by wilfully or recklessly setting fire to the mattresses.
One resident said he was wakened by a crackling sound. At first he thought someone was throwing stones at windows, but he smelled smoke and moved quickly to make sure he, his wife and family got out of their flat.
Bellshill fire station manager Gary McArthur said a call came in just after 4am and two fire appliances, with a total of nine firefighters, raced to the scene.
He saw that a mattress and a timber fence behind Subway were burning. The shop’s air conditioning and refrigeration units were damaged and the flames had spread upwards to damage a toilet on the first floor of the building.
It appeared no one was injured and the flames were put out in a matter of seconds. However, firefighters remained at the scene for two and a half hours as a precaution.
Mr McArthur explained: “My concern was the fire could have spread to the first floor. We had to strip back flooring to make sure that hadn’t happened.
“We also had to go into the Subway shop to make sure the fire hadn’t spread beyond the air conditioning and refrigeration units.”
The trial stalled after Mr McArthur was asked to give his view on how the blaze had started.
He told the court he has attended “hundreds” of fires during a 20-year career in the service. However, Parkinson’s defence argued he couldn’t be classed as an “expert witness” and as such couldn’t be asked for an expert opinion.
Sheriff Douglas Brown ruled against prosecutor Callum Forsyth’s line of questioning which led to Mr Forsyth telling the court he was “no longer seeking a conviction”.
Parkinson appeared from custody having been jailed for 13 months in September for punching a police officer and shouting abuse and threats.