A jealous lover turned his girlfriend’s home into a “house of horror” when he set fire to it after accusing her of cheating on him.
Karl Banks, 38, torched the first floor living quarters of 37-year-old pub landlady Leanne Brownbridge while she was at a hospital nursing her poorly teenager daughter.
Banks, who was staying at Miss Brownbridge’s flat above the Earl of Balcarres pub in Scholes, near Wigan, had earlier been told to leave after messaging the victim at the hospital accusing her of having a fling with another man.
But before he departed, he drank Jack Daniels whisky plus an entire bottle of Jagermeister – using a cigarette lighter to set the couple’s bed ablaze in a revenge attack saying he wanted “no other man to share it with her.”
The inferno ripped through the flat destroying all personal effects owned by Miss Brownbridge and her 16 year old daughter Ellie including jewellery, personal effects, furniture school books and GCSE coursework.
Miss Brownbridge who had been in charge of the pub as a tenant landlady for six months was still at Wigan Infirmary with Ellie when police called her to say her home was on fire. Firefighters managed to rescue the family’s two bulldogs, Mavis and Dave, and pet tortoise from the burning building.
In a statement Miss Brownbridge who had spent weeks refurbishing the premises ahead of lockdown lifting and had no no insurance for her possessions said: “I’ve lost everything and there was nothing there except a big pile of ashes.
“It was like walking into a horror film and I’m heartbroken. I know we’re lucky to be alive, but we literally have nothing.
“My daughter and I had one change of clothes in the hospital and that was it. We had been struggling with her illness and she was hysterical. She is in year 11 and has lost all her GCSE coursework.
“It’s been hard enough trying to keep it together during lockdown and I’m heartbroken for all my regulars. There were people who came in with nowhere else to go. That is where they saw their friends and now it has burned down.”
She added: “When I got back the pub was completely ablaze. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere near it because it was taped off and I was just shouting for my dogs.
“I thought they were dead and I had to wait 45 minutes before I knew they were alive. It was just the ultimate relief when I saw them. I thought Karl Banks loved me and my daughter and cannot believe he has destroyed our lives and making us homeless.”
At Bolton Crown Court, Banks of Wigan admitted arson and was jailed for three years and four months.
The couple had been in an “intense relationship” since Miss Brownbridge took over the pub in August 2020 but their romance deteriorated on February 2 when Banks convinced himself she had another lover.
Miss Jane Dagnall prosecuting said in the hours before the blaze Ellie had become unwell at school and Miss Brownbridge decided to take her to hospital asking Banks to remain at the pub which at the time was closed due to lockdown.
“They chatted on whatsapp for the rest of the afternoon but at 10.10pm he started messaging her discussing a male known as JimBob,” said Miss Dagnall.
“She became annoyed that he seemed more concerned about this man rather than her daughter and an argument developed which ended with her telling him to get out of her pub at 11pm.
“By 11.45pm Miss Brownbridge received a call from police saying her home was on fire and they collected her from the hospital and took her to the pub where she was only allowed to collect her dogs.
“It was the following day when she was allowed inside the pub and she was hysterical at the scenes which she described as a like a horror film. She and her daughter lost everything.”
Police and firefighters examining the scene found the smashed bottle of Jack Daniels by the charred remains of bed whilst the Jagermeister bottle was discovered on the pub’s pool table downstairs.
Following his escape, Banks slept under a bush in a nearby field before going to his mother’s home and advising her to call police. He had previous convictions relating to domestic abuse plus criminal damage.
He told police he was ‘suspicious’ about Miss Brownbridge’s “involvement with another man” and after he became angry, drank the entire contents of the spirit bottle before trashing the bedroom.
Banks claimed “the thought of other men sleeping in the bed with her” led to him grabbing a lighter then burning the bed and he said the flames “went up too quickly” before he could put them out.
Miss Brownbridge said she lost £16,200 worth of possessions in the blaze.
In mitigation defence counsel Mr Louis French claimed the blaze did not leave the most “serious consequential financial damage” arguing other arson attacks cause “hundreds of thousands if not millions of pounds” of damage.
He added: “Their relationship was intense – she trusted him with her daughter and to stay over at the pub. Latterly though, Mr Banks says there were increasinging signs of there being another man in her life including a phone call.
“He lost all sense of proportion and did not contemplate the fire to spread as badly as it did. He meant her no harm. He was desperately in love with her, thought her love was elsewhere and that upset him.”
But sentencing Judge Tina Landale told Banks: “Miss Brownbridge must have been worried about her daughter but you consumed far too much alcohol and then began messaging her about a man.
“You became consumed by jealousy and in a pathetic display of patriarchal behaviour decided to punish her in a rage. She was entitled to speak to and do with who she chooses yet you sought revenge for what was only a perceived infidelity.
“In your patriarchal rage you trashed the bedroom and chose the bed deliberately to set on fire and then left the property without calling the fire brigade. You left extensive damage and she has been left heartbroken by the devastation. She was left with only the clothes she was wearing.
“The sentiments you express show you have absolutely no insight whatsoever of what you did.
“If you are a millionaire, losing a million pounds is a lot but if you have not very very much, losing not very much is a lot. To her she has lost everything.”
Banks was also banned from contacting Miss Brownbridge and her daughter under the terms of an indefinite restraining order.