South West Wales

Man who burned down Whitland farmhouse jailed for five years

Remains of the farmhouse from inside Image copyright Wales News Service

A man who burned down his former £250,000 farmhouse in Carmarthenshire after it was repossessed by a bank has been jailed for five years.

Charles Chestnut reduced his home in Login, Whitland, to a "smouldering shell" after a four-year row with the Yorkshire Building Society.

Swansea Crown Court heard fire crews arrived at the property to find him having a barbecue and playing guitar.

Chestnut, 55, was convicted of arson in January.

Image copyright Dyfed-Powys Police

The court had heard Chestnut ended up squatting in the house after it was repossessed, but set fire to it on the day he was due to attend court.

He had hung two signs on his farmhouse gate which greeted fire crews - one read "Free Scrap" and the other said "Danger keep out. Private property undergoing complete renovation".

Chestnut told police he started the fire but refused to take part in his trial and was convicted in his absence.

After the blaze, the value of the farmhouse fell to £80,000.

Image copyright Wales News Service

Previously, Chestnut had told a judge to pass the longest sentence possible but had a change of heart during his sentencing hearing and asked him to "open the door and let me go".

But Judge Geraint Walters imposed an immediate five-year jail term.

He said: "The farmhouse had been completely burned down. It was a smouldering shell. You were found outside seemingly preparing a barbecue while playing a guitar.

"You began defaulting on your mortgage payments and the property was repossessed. You became involved with a campaign against the Yorkshire Building Society for a number of years and showed determination not to be beaten by them.

"But the reality is, this was their property and not yours. You played a game of cat and mouse and decided to have the last laugh - or so you thought."

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