AN ARSONIST is facing considerable time in prison after being convicted of starting a fire in a house full of people.

Olayinka Huthman will be sentenced on Tuesday after a jury found him unanimously guilty of arson while being reckless as to whether life in endangered.

The 33-year-old of Coleman Street, Southend had denied ever starting the fire at the house he previously lived in on Hastings Road, Southend on May 6 last year.

But following a trial at Basildon Crown Court which lasted more than a week, and a day's deliberations, the jury found him guilty of the charge today.

However, Huthman was acquitted on a more serious count of arson with intent to endanger life.

Judge Andrew Hurst thanked the jury for their service and discharged them.

The jury heard that Huthman had been amounting a considerable amount of debt in the lead up to the fire, where he owed his landlord a total of £800 in rent.

The day before the fire, his landlord had slipped a note under his door demanding the rent be paid.

The rest of the house, which consisted of five people in total, then described hearing banging noises coming from his bedroom overnight.

One told the jury: "I was trying to get to sleep but I couldn't. I was scared."

Thick black smoke was seen inside the home and the other people evacuated as the fire spread.

Thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused, with Huthman returning later and looking angrily at the landlord.

Giving evidence himself, Huthman refuted claims that he was angry over the debt he had, and that it "wasn't a big amount of money" and planned to pay it.

He denied ever knowing about the fire until he returned home, but the jury did not believe this.

The sentence for arson can range from a community order all the way to more than 12 years in prison.