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Thursday, 22 November 2007, 16:59 GMT
Man denies arson at wife's house

A roofer accused of setting fire to his wife's house has denied starting the blaze in a "spiteful act" when he realised the marriage was over.

Gary Hooley told Sheffield Crown Court that he loved his wife Michelle at the time of the fire in February this year and had nothing to do with the blaze.

He said he had spent £50,000 renovating the home on Burton Road, Barnsley.

Mr Hooley, 50, denies a charge of arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered.

'Slept in van'

Hooley is accused of setting fire to the house following a drink-fuelled row with his wife at a friend's 50th birthday party at a pub.

The court was told Hooley left the birthday party and made his way back home on foot in the early hours.

On the way home he met a stranger who he spoke to about his marital problems.

He told him he did not want to stay at his marital home and the stranger offered to drive him in Hooley's van to a piece of waste ground where he spent the rest of the night sleeping off seven or eight pints of cider.

Mr Iain Hillis, prosecuting, put it to Hooley that he had had enough of his wife's "whining and whinging" and he started the fire as a "spiteful act" when he realised the marriage was effectively over.

Hooley replied: "No".

Trial separation

Mr Hillis accused Hooley of starting the fire in the marital bed in the couple's bedroom.

He said: "That's where all the things are that Michelle regards as important to her - her designer clothes, her handbags and 70 pairs of shoes."

"I haven't set fire to her things," Hooley replied.

The jury has heard the couple agreed on a trial separation in July last year and unsuccessfully decided to try again four months later.

The property was in Mrs Hooley's name after she received it in a divorce settlement from an ex-husband.

Mr Hooley shared the home with Mrs Hooley, her daughter Lauren Hooson, and Lauren's boyfriend.

The trial continues.