Jealous ex who started ‘devastating fire’ jailed for nine years
PUBLISHED: 13:30 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:07 09 May 2019
A jealous and controlling boyfriend who started a £1.8million blaze which caused devastating damage to a Suffolk town centre newsagents and adjoining buildings after his pregnant girlfriend walked out on him has been jailed for nine years.
Sentencing 32-year-old Stephen Wilson, Judge John Devaux said he had started the fire out of "pure malice and pure spite" directed at his girlfriend.
Wilson, of Poppy Close, Loddon, had denied arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, assaulting his partner Amy Clark by beating and driving a car taken without consent, but was found guilty after a trial last month.
He had earlier admitted two offences of breaching a restraining order banning him from contacting Miss Clark.
In addition to jailing Wilson Judge Devaux made a restraining order banning him from contacting Miss Clark for nine years.
The court heard that as Miss Clark walked away from the timber-framed flat above DC Patrick Newsagents in Market Place, Halesworth, that she shared with Wilson, following a row he threatened to set fire to the premises if she didn't go back.
Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, described the relationship between Wilson and Miss Clark as "turbulent" and said that in 2017 a court had banned him from contacting her or going to Halesworth.
Despite the order the couple had got back together but the arguments had continued and on June 11 Wilson, who had been drinking, accused Miss Clark of deleting text messages on her phone before he could read them.
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He had given her "a backhander" to the face and Miss Clark, who was eight months pregnant, left the flat with friends.
As she walked away Wilson was heard threatening to start a fire at the flat if she didn't go back.
"It wasn't an idle threat and within minutes he made good his threat," said Mr Jackson.
The fire had spread quickly with "devastating" consequences to neighbouring properties including Patrick's newsagents.
The court heard the cost of rebuilding the newsagents and adjoining premises as well as the loss of stock, computers and business interruption was estimated at more than £1.8m.
In addition the Market Place in Halesworth had been closed the day after the fire and scaffolding at the damaged premises had caused ongoing inconvenience to shoppers and businesses.
The court also heard that Wilson's former partner Amy Clark and her children had been left homeless as a result of the fire and she had lost all her possessions.
Ronan McCann for Wilson described the arson as an "impulsive, reckless and entirely regrettable" decision by his client.
He said the fire had spread quickly and Wilson, who now accepted starting it, hadn't anticipated the scale of the damage.