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This article was reproduced with the kind permission
of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 18:59 GMT
Man 'set ex-wife's house on fire'

A roofer from South Yorkshire has appeared in court accused of setting fire to his ex-wife's house to stop her receiving it in a divorce settlement.

Gary Hooley, 50, of Barnsley, appeared at Sheffield Crown Court on Wednesday, and denied arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered.

When interviewed by police following the fire in February, Mr Hooley said he would not have set fire to the house.

He said he had spent two years and "a fortune" renovating the property.

'Did not know'

He told police: "Why would I want to set my house on fire? I've just spent two years doing it up."

Iain Hillis, prosecuting, told the court that on the morning of the fire, Mr Hooley was found by police lying across the front seat of his white Transit van on wasteland by the house.

The court heard that when interviewed by police later, he told officers he had been to a party with his wife, 49, but left after an argument.

He told police he had walked home and started speaking to an unknown "lad", who he talked to about the argument and his marriage problems, Mr Hillis said.

The man then offered to drive Mr Hooley to the wasteland because he did not want to stay at home and had drunk too much alcohol to drive, he told officers.

He said he did not find out about the fire until later.

When police asked him why he did not react when his wife rang him and told him about the fire, he said: "What could I do about it? It had burnt down."

The court has heard the pair separated in July last year and unsuccessfully decided to try again four months later.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.