A "wickedly irresponsible" husband who tried to firebomb his estranged wife's home by driving a fully laden fuel tanker into the bungalow while she was inside has been jailed for seven years.
Hugh Billington, 51, ploughed the 7.5-tonne vehicle through the front wall of his former marital home in a "futile act of revenge" and was also planning to kill himself in the attack.
His former wife Christine Billington, 53, who had taken out a restraining order on him, jumped out of a back window to escape. When the crash failed to trigger a blast, Hugh Billington walked round the property spraying kerosene, which he then ignited. He also turned the gas hob on in the kitchen and loosened the fuel valves on the tanker before running away from the blazing building.
A passerby, Darren Fletcher, 36, jumped into the flaming cab and reversed the vehicle away from the property in the Dorset village of Wool, probably preventing an even more devastating fire.
Hugh Billington. Photograph: PA
Jailing Billington, Judge Roger Jarvis said he had been "wickedly irresponsible". He added: "You took a tanker with 2,000 litres of kerosene in it and you drove towards what was once your matrimonial home. You drove into the house.
"The valves fortunately were not fully opened. If they had been there would have been the most enormous bomb. All of this took place when people were walking past, including children, and that is deeply concerning and it shows just how wickedly irresponsible you were."
Billington's 30-year marriage had ended months before the attack. She had made allegations of domestic violence against her husband, a former non-commissioned officer and musician in the Household Cavalry.
Dorchester crown court heard that on the morning of 20 January "something snapped" inside Billington and he telephoned his wife, telling her: "You cannot do this."
Jennie Rickman, prosecuting, said Billington went to the depot where he worked and took a tanker that was loaded with kerosene. "At 8.30am a witness saw the tanker being driven in an erratic manner," she said.
"Some time at about 8.45am Mrs Billington was at home and she heard an almighty crash. She went to see what had happened and could see through the front of her house. The tanker had come through the front of her house and made a hole in the wall. She ran out of the kitchen, over the fence and into a neighbour's home from where the police were contacted.
"The defendant went into the property and set fires in rooms of the house and it was apparent that an accelerant was used, most likely to have been kerosene."
Rickman said Billington was found by police a few hours later on the edge of woodland and a note saying goodbye to his grownup children was discovered at his work. The damage to the bungalow was put at £235,000.
Billington pleaded guilty to a charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He also admitted a charge of dangerous driving and the assault of a special constable who tried to stop him as he escaped.
Tim Shorter, defending, claimed Billington had shown great remorse for what had happened and had acted through "folly, stupidity and anger".
Shorter said: "After it had happened he said something had snapped. He was intending to end his own life and a futile act of revenge."
Rickman said afterwards: "This was a very traumatic incident for Mrs Billington who continues to suffer the effects of the events of that day, the loss of her home and the majority of her personal possessions. I hope that following the conclusion of this case Mrs Billington can now start to rebuild her life."