A MAN cleared of committing an arson attack has spoken out after spending almost three months in prison.

Anthony Marsden has told the Bolton News about his ‘horrible’ ordeal as he celebrated being acquitted.

The fire broke out at a property in Musgrave Gardens, Halliwell, in the early hours of Wednesday, December 21, 2016 and Mr Marsden, 28, was subsequently arrested and charged with arson with intent to endanger life.

Mr Marsden said he was in custody from December 21, 2016 until March 7 this year, when his solicitors successfully appealed for him to be released on bail.

He spent the majority of this time in Forest Bank prison.

At Bolton Crown Court on Friday, the prosecution offered no evidence and told judge Elliot Knopf that they could not be certain of a conviction.

The prosecution added that it could not be ruled out that the fire had started accidentally and judge Knopf recorded a not guilty verdict.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Marsden, said: “To be honest with you, it still doesn’t feel real.

“It felt horrible when I was arrested for that charge, you can get something like 14 years, I was really scared.”

After he was released, Mr Marsden had to stay at a bail hostel in Wigan, away from his family and friends.

He spoke of his time in prison and what that was like. He said: “It was horrible. They treated me like I was a murderer, the officers and the people in there, they were just horrible.

“I was only allowed out of my cell for three hours a day. It was horrible, the first two weeks I was there I just slept all the way through it, they gave me a lot of sleeping tablets. “I didn’t eat anything, I lost four stone in two weeks.

“When they put me in the main block of the prison, I kept getting robbed, I had my cigarettes taken by other prisoners.”

He also said that the ‘legal high’ Spice is ‘everywhere in prison’.

Speaking about what got him through the experience, Mr Marsden said: “My family coming to see me every day on visits.

“If I didn’t have them, I don’t think I would be talking to you now.”

He added that while for some of the prisoners, who had been there a long time, life at the prison was like ‘Pontins’ it was hard for him to cope as he was new.

Mr Marsden is currently living with his sister, Louise Marsden, in Bolton.

Miss Marsden said: “I knew he was not guilty from the start, this morning it was great to have it all over and done with.

“It’s been traumatising. It’s been tough for us all, we’re a close knit family. We’ve been driving to see him every day.”

She said it was particularly tough as he was arrested just before Christmas.

Mr Marsden lived in Musgrave Gardens and was not able to return home while on bail but could soon be able to go back.

He said that the one positives of his experience is that during his time in prison he managed to sort out a drink problem he had previously struggled with and is now looking for work.