A Northampton man has avoided prison after assaulting his former partner and setting fire to her house, causing more than £100,000 in damage.
Samuel Johnston, aged 41, of Kingfisher Retreat, Billing Aquadrome, appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Thursday, May 26 after pleading guilty to assault and arson.
The court heard that, on November 27 last year, Johnston approached his former partner outside her mother’s home and grabbed both of her arms, almost “shaking” her. The defendant made a comment about someone he suspected her to be romantically involved with before grabbing her again.
Michael Hagger, prosecuting, described how two “concerned” onlookers asked if the victim was okay before the defendant let go of her and left. The woman fearfully darted inside her mother’s house and locked the door.
The court heard that, the following morning, the victim – still at her mother’s house - was notified on a resident WhatsApp group that a fire took place in her street. She had also received an email from Johnston, which read: “You can explain to [redacted] and everyone else why **** got burnt.”
The victim returned to her property and quickly realised it was her house that had been on fire.
The court heard that £7,000 of clothes, furniture and other belongings had been damaged in the flames that had engulfed an entire room. Around £100,000 in damage was caused to the house, according to two quotes provided by the victim’s landlord.
Mr Hagger told the court that police discovered a note in the victim’s main room saying: “I hope he enjoys it.”
Johnston handed himself in to police after officers called his phone and confessed to starting the fire, the court heard. He claimed it got “out of control” and only intended to set fire to her clothes. Police searched the defendant’s car, where they discovered lamp oil that was used as an accelerant in the arson.
The victim told the court: “I feel such a fool. Eight years I spent with that man. I never believed he was capable of such lies and spite.”
She said Johnston showed “no remorse” and destroyed “irreplaceable” possessions of great sentimental value to her including photographs, letters and her late father’s belongings.
She added: “I never realised he hated me as much as his actions have shown me he does.”
Liam Muir, in mitigation, said Johnston is a man struggling with his mental health in addition to financial problems and “did not know how to reach out for help.”
The court heard that Johnston has no previous convictions and has since taken steps to address his gambling and alcoholism.
Mr Muir added: “He is disgusted by what he has done and realises the ramifications of his actions.”
Her Honour Judge Rebecca Crane said Johnston was “clearly jealous” that his former partner may have started another relationship and described his behaviour as “vengeful.”
Johnston was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. He was additionally ordered to complete an alcohol treatment programme, 15 rehabilitation requirement days and 100 hours of unpaid work.
A restraining order between Johnston and his former partner was imposed for three years.