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New kitchen stress drove housewife to torch her own home

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 03, 2013

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court

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A wife set light to her home because she could not cope with the stress of having a new kitchen fitted.

Anne Chesterman became anxious and depressed and set light to curtains in a spare room because she thought her husband was ignoring her.

The 58-year-old caused serious damage to the house in Exmouth where fire fighters found the back room gutted, the double glazed window burned out and smoke marks up the wall.

He husband Neil Chesterman fled the bungalow in his underwear and was found in the garden in a state of shock by rescuers, Exeter Crown Court was told.

She told police she was suffering from stress because workmen had been fitting a new kitchen for the past three weeks and she had a series of arguments with her husband.

Chesterman, of Winston Road, Exmouth, admitted arson being reckless whether life was endangered and was jailed for 14 months, suspended for two years and ordered to receive 12 months supervision.

Judge Phillip Wassall told her: ”At the time you were depressed and not well and set fire to the curtains. Your marriage was under real stress and you were trying to attract the attention of your husband.

“The fire took hold extremely quickly and resulted in substantial damage to the bedroom which was gutted and it is lucky you and your husband were not injured.

“It is the risk caused by this offence which was so serious. It was not just to the people in the house but to others. This was a semi-detached property and the emergency services are put at risk whenever they attend an incident.

“When that fire is started deliberately and unnecessary, that is a very serious aggravating feature. However, this was an isolated incident committed in highly unusual circumstances.”

The Judge made no order for costs or compensation after being told Chesterman and her husband are having to pay for the repairs to their home because insurance does not cover fire started deliberately by the policy holder.

Mr Lee Bremridge, prosecuting, said the fire service were called to the two bedroomed bungalow just before midnight on a Thursday night in July.

They found Mr Chesterman in his underwear outside the conservatory after rescuing the family dog and failing to put out the fire with a bowl of water.

They found his wife nearby. She initially blamed an electrical fault in the building work but then confessed to starting the fire by putting a lighter to the curtains, which caught light much quicker than she expected.

Mr Bremridge said: ”She eventually told police that it had been an extremely stressful time between her and her husband. She said in the course of the last three weeks they were having a new kitchen fitted.

“She said it had been a particularly stressful time which led to a series of arguments between her and her husband. She said she started the fire to get his attention.”

Miss Bathsheba Cassel, defending, said her client was remorseful and now realised that she had problems with bottling up her emotions and was keen to accept help.

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