A LANDLORD and his wife have been jailed for torching their own pub in an 'ill thought-out and stupid' plot.
Dean Thomas, 42, was jailed for six years for setting fire to the Tollhouse Inn in Lymington in the early hours after spreading petrol around the bar area and igniting it causing more than £100,000 damage.
His wife Melynda, 36, was jailed for three years for arson – reduced because of her lesser role in the incident – which had occurred while her teenage daughter and her boyfriend and a pub worker were asleep upstairs.
Both were found guilty of arson being reckless as to endanger life by a jury last month.
Dean Thomas was also given a 12-month prison sentence for perverting the course of justice to run concurrent to his six-year sentence after the couple tried to pin the blame on his brother-in-law.
The pair stood in silence as Judge Peter Henry addressed them.
“I have no doubt that as part of that plan it was at the forefront of your mind to get everybody out safely but you had no idea how the fire would spread, how thick the smoke would be.
“You put people’s lives in danger,” he said to Dean Thomas.
Then Judge Henry turned to Melynda Thomas.
“You knew beforehand that your husband was going to start the fire, that you expressly or tacitly agreed to that and that ... you played some part in achieving your joint purpose. I am satisfied that the part you played was to make it look like an arson attack,” he said.
He added that Melynda Thomas had tried to shift the blame on to her brother who was arrested in connection with the incident but was subsequently released without charge.
Judge Henry added that he wasn’t sure whether the motivation to set fire to the pub was for financial gain or not.
“Whatever happened, it was done for a very ill thought-out and stupid reason,” he said.
Southampton Crown Court heard how Dean Thomas smashed two windows at the pub and blocked off a fire escape in a bid to make it look like a break-in.
It was only when police found a holdall stuffed behind a garage containing clothes with fragments of glass from the windows on them that his story began to unravel.
Officers hid a camera nearby, and the next day recorded the couple visiting the spot, where they appeared to search for the bag before getting into a heated row.
The landlord was struggling with mounting debts as pub takings failed to reach expectations and tried to convince jurors the pair had been upset when they realised unmarked pets’ graves had been trampled on.