Depressed arsonist torched two cars for brother-in-law

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A Hadleigh man started a fire which caused £40,000 of damage at a garage, a court heard.

Gavin Seager, 35, of Wilson Road, was caught thanks to CCTV images and an anti-theft tracking system fitted to the van he was driving.

At Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday, prosecutor Andrew Thompson said that, on the evening of November 13 last year, two VW Golf cars worth £20,000 each were destroyed at Barnard’s garage in Stowmarket.

The blaze also resulted in £1,875 of damage to a canopy.

Police initially detained Seager’s brother-in-law who was the owner of one of the cars and who was involved in a dispute with the garage, said Mr Thompson. Officers soon eliminated him from their inquiries.

Suspicion then turned to Seager when police officers, studying on CCTV footage, recognised a van in the livery of his family’s business, Seager Home Solutions, being driven away from the scene.

Checks on the vehicle’s tracking system resulted in it being placed in the area of the fire at about the time it was started.

Seager was arrested and when questioned admitted what he had done, said Mr Thompson.

In mitigation, Stephen Dyble said: “It is difficult to justify as a rational act. He was not in a rational state of mind at the time.”

Mr Dyble said his client was being treated for depression and had a history of attempted self-harm.

Seager came from a successful and hard-working family who were supporting him while he sought help for his problems, said Mr Dyble.

Sentencing Seager, Judge David Goodin told him: “Offences of arson can cover all sorts of circumstances and degrees. The reason they have to be dealt with seriously is that they can often end in a result very different from what was intended by the arsonist.”

Imposing a 10 month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, Judge Goodin said: “This offence was plainly out of character and the consequence at least in part of the stress to which you had been subject.

“In those circumstances, it would not be necessary in the public interest to send you straight to prison.”

Seager, who had pleaded guilty to an offence of arson, was ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid community work and remain under probation service supervision for 12 months.

He will have to pay £1,200 in costs and £1,875 in compensation to Barnard’s.