On Air Now
Heart's Feel Good Weekend with Zoe Hardman 6am - 10am
An Army veteran who crashed a tanker laden with 2,000 litres of fuel into his estranged wife's home in an attempt to destroy it has been jailed for seven years.
Lorry driver Hugh Billington, 51, drove the seven-and-a-half tonne lorry loaded with kerosene through the front of the bungalow causing £235,000 of damage.
Christine Billington was in the kitchen when her husband mounted the pavement and crashed into the house.
She fled in terror and climbed over a wall into a neighbour's garden to escape the melee on the morning of January 20 this year.
As children with their parents walked past the bungalow on their way to school in Wool, Dorset, Billington attempted to raze the property to the ground by lighting kerosene he had poured around four rooms.
Billington, who had an "exemplary'' record in nearly 25 years' service with the Household Regiment, then fled the scene.
Dorchester Crown Court heard that it was only good fortune that the tanker did not explode.
At an earlier hearing, Billington, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, assault by beating, dangerous driving and theft.
He denied the more serious charge of arson with intent to endanger life, a plea that was accepted by the Crown and ordered to lie on file.
At the time of the incident, Billington was on bail for an allegation of domestic violence against his wife and was the subject of restraining order.
Passing sentence Judge Roger Jarvis said several senior Army officers had spoken very highly of Billington's service and this made this case "more tragic''.
"So far as these offences are concerned you were at the time on bail,'' he said.
"Your behaviour towards your wife had already come to the attention of the authorities.
"You took a tanker with 2,000 litres of kerosene and drove it towards your former matrimonial home.
"On driving it into the house kerosene was released.
"The valves were fortunately not fully open and if they had and the fire had caught properly it needs very little imagination to imagine what would happen - there would have been an enormous bomb.
"What concerns me is that it happened when people are walking to school and that is a deeply troubling feature and shows how wickedly irresponsible you were."
As well as the jail term, Judge Jarvis banned Billington from driving for five years and imposed a restraining order banning him from direct contact with his wife indefinitely.