A cross-eyed arsonist, Andrew Burls, who set fire to an underwear shop during last summer’s London riots was caught after police recognised his distinctive eyes on CCTV footage.

The 23 year-old admitted starting the blaze in the Peckham store, south east London, which caused almost £1million damage and left several people homeless.

Despite efforts to disguise himself, detectives identified Burls, who was said to “go cross-eyed under stress”, after he left his eyes visible above a scarf wrapped around his face.

The alleged offences took place on Monday August 8 at commercial and residential buildings in Rye Lane. The fire, which started at Regens Lingerie Boutique in Rye Lane just after 7.30pm before spreading to a Post Office branch, other businesses and residential flats.

All the buildings eventually collapsed, causing almost a £1million damage. Ten residents were displaced as a result of the fire and a small number were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation. No-one was seriously injured.

The thug, from Peckham, initially denied setting fire to the premises. But officers arrested him at his home, not far from the scene, on October 24 after sifting through hours of CCTV footage.

Acting Detective Sergeant Jim Woods, from Southwark Police, said: “You can see on the video that he is cross-eyed. It was one of the strands I used to identify him.”

Burls at first denied arson but changed his plea to guilty at Inner London Crown Court after police found evidence to prove an alibi was false. No further details were tendered.

Burls, who was remanded to remain in Brixton Prison, will be sentenced to two counts of “arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered” and a further charge of burglary. Another two counts of burglary are to lie on file.

He will be sentenced later this month.

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