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Controlling boyfriend burned down ex's home, killing daughter's guinea pig trapped inside

A controlling boyfriend took revenge on his partner by burning down her home with her daughter’s pet guinea pig inside it.

The fire lit by David Ellis destroyed his ex's home and killed one of his daughter's guinea pigs. Photo: Devon and Cornwall Police
The fire lit by David Ellis destroyed his ex's home and killed one of his daughter's guinea pigs. Photo: Devon and Cornwall Police

David Ellis broke into her home in the middle of the night while she and her children were staying elsewhere and started a blaze in an empty pram which caused £180,000 damage to the semi and killed the pet.

The fire in Paignton, Devon, spread throughout the top floor and killed a guinea pig which had been left trapped in a cage in the victim’s daughter’s bedroom.

Ellis had told his ex that if he could not have her, nobody else would, and she believed he had gone to the house to kill her.

He had been arrested for attacking her and damaging her home two days before the arson attack in November last year. Six hours before he lit the fire, Ellis was released on bail with a condition not to contact her,

However, he had already broken it before starting the blaze by sending her a threatening Facebook message which said: “Pointless sh*t. A cheat is always a cheat. Going away for good. No f***er will see me again. Phone call would be nice.”

The message led his terrified partner to flee her home, which was why it was empty when he burned it down.

Ellis, aged 41, now of Marks Walk in Lichfield, admitted arson, being reckless whether life was endangered, battery, and criminal damage. He was jailed for four years with a three-year extended licence by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court on Friday.

The judge told him: “This was intended to be a form of punishment for the victim’s supposed infidelity. The harm which you did is clear from the mother’s victim personal statement and the report from the child’s school.”

Miss Mary McCarthy, prosecuting, said Ellis was jealous and controlling during the relationship and assaulted his ex-partner in front of one of her children when she ended it.

He was released from custody for that attack at 6pm on November 27 and started the fire shortly after midnight, when he broke in to her house. He lit a small fire in the kitchen which did not take and another in an empty pram which was probably fuelled by accelerants and which destroyed the upper floor of the house.

She said: “The daughter’s guinea pigs were in a cage upstairs and he knew that. They belonged to a child who has autism and tragically one of the guinea pigs died and caused very significant trauma to the child.”

The mother’s victim impact statement said: “I am still in shock about what happened. I believe David intended to kill me and the children. My home has gone, out Christmas presents are gone, and my daughter has lost her guinea pig.

Mr Paul Dentith, defending, said Ellis was out of control at the time but now regrets his actions. He said he knew there was nobody in the house and went there to retrieve his belongings. He started the fire when he found them gone.

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