TWO old school friends who burned down a disused church are facing jail.
Old school friends Michael John Lill and Jason Sulley, both 23, torched the hospital church of St Faith’s in Pinderfields Park last June.
They used cardboard or blankets to set it alight.
The Grade II listed church, on the corner of Eastmoor Road and Aberford Road, was part of the old Stanley Royd Asylum and is thought to have been designed by renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1861.
The roof, which was believed to be only one of two of its kind in the UK, collapsed and burnt to cinders.
Owners Linfit Investments bought the church in 2007 for £285,000 and had planned to turn it into flats.
But the trial heard the remains of the building will have to be pulled down.
An earlier court hearing was told the damage toll was estimated at £850,000.
Lill, of Arundel Close, Wakefield, and Sulley, of Hornbeam Avenue, Silcoates Park, denied arson but blamed each other.
It took a jury just over an hour-and-a-half to convict them after a three-day trial.
Judge Rodney Jameson QC adjourned sentencing after calling for psychiatric and probation reports.
He bailed the duo but warned them: “You must understand a custodial sentence is the most likely one in the circumstances of your conviction.”
Earlier the trial heard how a man playing football on Pinderfields Park raised the alarm at 7.10pm on June 18 after seeing smoke coming from the church.
He also saw two men coming from the church and described them to police. Officers arrested them 15 minutes later.
Prosecutor Adrian Strong said: “They were sitting nearby almost as though they were watching what was going on.”
They admitted going into the church and having a drink. But then they started blaming each other.
Lill told police his co-accused used to light fires when he was younger but an officer said: “That’s funny, he says you used to set fires when you were younger.”
Lill, of previous good character, admitted he had lit about 50 camp fires in the open but said he had grown out of it as a schoolboy.
Sulley, who had a caution as a teenager for burglary with intent to cause damage, told police he went into the church with Lill who’d asked whether he should set a fire. Sulley said ‘No’ but Lill, who had a lighter, did it anyway. Sulley claimed he tried to stamp out the flames but couldn’t.
Lill and Sully are expected to be sentenced in the new year.