Gambling addict set fire to family's £300k home near Dudley because wife walked out

A "self-indulgent" man with crack cocaine and gambling habits has been jailed for setting fire to the family's £300,000 home when his wife left him.

Pritesh Patel
Pritesh Patel

Pritesh Patel had a crack cocaine habit, spent £1,800 a week on gambling and racked up debts resulting in the break down of his eight-year marriage.

On February 1, the father-of-one took some drugs and drank booze before using a lighter to set fire to a mattress at the four-bed semi, in Brambleside, Audnam, in Wordsley.

He then video phoned his wife on WhatsApp to show her what he was doing telling her he was going to kill himself.

Mr David Bennett, prosecuting said, when the emergency services arrived at the scene the defendant was waiting outside and at first blamed the blaze on a faulty heater, but subsequently confessed his actions to the police.

Wolverhampton Crown Court

Sentencing him at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge Barry Berlin said the defendant put his wife through a "terrifying experience", put the safety of his neighbours and the firefighters at risk.

He also said he agreed with a probation report which concluded he was a risk to the public.

"He is somebody who is self-indulgent. Taking cocaine, having a drink and going on to set fire to the house because his wife left him," Judge Berlin said.

Patel, 38, a kitchen company worker, previously pleaded guilty to a charge of arson reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Mr Haroon Khattak, mitigating, told the judge: "Punishment can properly take place in the community."

"The custodial threshold has been crossed. I ask for you to step back from sending him to jail."

But the judge disagreed.

"This is not a case of someone who has mental illness and in a moment of madness suddenly starts a fire. He phoned his wife to present to her what he was doing. The appropriate punishment must be immediate custody.

"This was highly dangerous. It was planned," Judge Berlin added.

The court heard that when firefighters based at Brierley Hill and Stourbridge fire stations arrived at the scene at about 9.50am they wore breathing gear and used a house to tackle the fire. The first floor of the house severely smokelogged as a result of the fire.

When he was arrested Patel told the police that he had taken an overdose of his anti-depressants. The officers took him to hospital where it was found he had taken a few pills which had not harmed him.

Judge Berlin said a psychiatric report stated that the defendant's behaviour was due to a combination of his cocaine dependency and gambling addiction, leading to him to a depressive state and not a result of any mental disorder which required hospital treatment.

For the offence Patel, of Spring Parklands, Russells Hall, in Dudley, was jailed for 22 months. He must serve half before being released on licence.

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