Dad jailed for five years after torching home in drunken rage

Gerrard Williams
Gerrard Williams

A father-of-three who left his estranged wife and their children homeless when he torched the family home has been jailed for 59 months.

Scaffolder Gerrard Williams claimed he thought the end-terrace property in Devon Street, Leigh, was empty when he set fire to a wooden lean-to.

But Stuart Molyneux, a friend of his wife Danielle, was still inside and was forced to flee as the blaze took hold, Bolton Crown Court was told.

Passing sentence, Judge Graham Smith said: “There was a real risk to the occupant of the property, Stuart Molyneux, and a real risk to the occupants of the adjacent properties, from the fire spreading.”

He told the court that Danielle Williams and their three children lost possessions valued at £22,000 and the house had to be extensively repaired by Wigan Council.

The family also had to move out of their home for three months while the repairs were undertaken, the judge added.

The defendant, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and two breaches of a restraining order.

Simon Barrett, prosecuting, said Williams, who had been drinking on the night of the fire, had called his wife and threatened he was going to torch her home, earlier on.

But by his plea, though he now accepted setting the fire, he insisted he had not appreciated that the flames would spread so quickly from the lean-to to the main house.

The defendant was arrested near Devon Street that same night, and has remained in custody since the February arson attack.

Martyn Walsh, defending, said his client had actually set fire to some of his own belongings which were stored in the wooden shed. He had thought there was no-one inside the house as there was no car parked outside, Mr Walsh added.

The defendant “would live with the guilt for the rest of his life” that the fire had claimed many of his children’s possessions, he said.

The court heard that his wife had since applied for the restraining order to be lifted and there was the possibility of the couple’s being being reconciled in the future.

He had earned a trusted status on his wing in prison, since his remand, and worked as a cleaner and painter, added Mr Walsh.