Jail for man who torched his ex-girlfriend’s home

A FORMER Pendle man who climbed into his ex-partner’s home late at night, harassed and threatened her and later carried out an arson attack on the terraced house has been jailed for more than four years.

Sunday, 13th February 2011, 3:29 pm

David Hughes (25), formerly of Halifax Road, Brierfield, had been unable to accept the breakdown of the relationship. This culminated in him banging on her door in the early hours and then when the glass broke, he set fire to curtains.

Preston Crown Court heard his former partner, Charlie-Anne Louise Watson, and her children were staying with friends that night in August last year.

The fire was started at her address in Cleaver Street. Hours before that, he had been to the christening of their two children, where everything had started off fine.

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Hughes, now of Lydgate, Burnley, was given a prison sentence of four years and three months. He had admitted offences of burglary, harassment and arson, being reckless where life would be endangered.

Judge Simon Newell told him: “What you did was highly dangerous and very stupid”.

Mr Tony Longworth (prosecuting) said the two had been in a relationship, but split up last April.

Then, at 3 a.m. in June, she was woken by Hughes shining the light of a mobile phone over her in bed. He went on to snatch her phone, preventing her from dialling 999. He left with her mobile phone and back door key.

Hughes went back to the home, accusing her of infidelity, no doubt having examined the phone, said Mr Longworth. This was because of a number he found on the mobile.

“The defendant went on to become verbally abusive, threatening that someone would go into her house, pour petrol over her and set it alight,” added Mr Longworth. After that he was arrested and bailed with conditions.

On August 1st last year, her two younger children, fathered by the defendant, were christened. Hughes attended the christening which went well and afterwards there was a celebration at a pub.

He became upset when she told him not to touch her inappropriately. His behaviour became aggressive and he even said: “Enjoy your drink. It’s your last one.”

When someone told him to go home, sober up and speak to her next day, he replied: “She won’t be here tomorrow”.

On the spur of the moment, Miss Watson and her children stayed overnight at a friend’s home. In the early hours of the following morning Hughes went to her home in Cleaver Street and banged on the door and window for an hour.

This caused a hole in a window and he then used a lighter to set light to curtains.

Defence barrister Mr Paul Lawton said he was genuinely sorry for what happened and wanted to move on.

He said: “Over a period of seven weeks last summer, he found it impossible to come to terms with the breakdown of the relationship. He sought solace in increasing amounts of alcohol which changed his personality. It appears to have been some form of catastrophic emotional breakdown.”

Mr Lawton said there had been some level of reconciliation between June and August last year.

“The defendant attributes no blame whatsoever to Miss Watson for his subsequent actions.”

She had allowed him access to the children on amicable terms. He had harboured genuine hopes of a reconciliation, but this didn’t happen.

All he remembered about the fire incident was going to the house and banging on the door.

Mr Lawton added: “He is adamant he became satisfied neither she nor the children were in the house. It appears it was a desperate cry for help. He has a heartfelt acknowledgement now that the relationship is over.”