Man admits to lighting Westbank Lions Hall on fire

Kerry Robert Cooper pleaded guilty Thursday to an arson charge relating to the fire that burned down the Westbank Lions Hall.

Kerry Robert Cooper pleaded guilty Thursday to an arson charge relating to the fire that burned down the Westbank Lions Hall last year.

Cooper, 30, declined legal representation, said Crown counsel David Grabavac, and will return to court July 3 to further resolve the matter.

At that time a pre-sentence report and court-ordered psyche assessment will be completed.

The case against Cooper, said Grabavac, rested heavily on surveillance video.

“Police have surveillance showing him buying gas at gas station, going (toward) the hall and walking away without the gas-can afterward,” said Grabavac.

“We don’t have evidence that shows him lighting the fire.”

It’s circumstantial evidence, but quite compelling, nonetheless, said Grabavac.

Cooper has yet to say anything about the matter, other than the guilty plea, but it’s believed by some that he may have been motivated to spark the blaze by revenge.

In a recent interview, the woman who was set to be married in the hall that same day claimed that Cooper was to be a guest at her wedding Sept. 1 2013.

Amanda Nevdoff  said Cooper was her bridesmaid’s  on-again, off-again boyfriend  and she’d recommended a permanent split.

She may not have been fond of the Kelowna man, but Nevdoff said she  didn’t suspect Cooper to be the cause of the fire.

In the days after the inferno gutted the hall, however,  a mutual friend referred Nevdoff to what’s believed to be Cooper’s Facebook page. There, he posted a series of comments, and news footage of the fire along with the caption, “haha f*** u Mandy.”

The fire that engulfed the Westbank Lions Community Centre started around 8 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 1, and quickly spread through the original wooden hall portion of the structure, which dates back to 1928, as well as the added on portions.

The entire building was renovated in 1980 when it was moved back from its original position nearer to the road and the addition was completed.

Damage was estimated in the ballpark of $1 million.

The rebuild is 50 per cent complete.