A jilted bride-to-be set fire to her fiance’s home and watched it burn after he called off their marriage, a court has heard.
Catherine Jarvis, 54, had already taken her partner Colin’s surname by deed poll but had moved out of his home in Kingskerswell, Devon, after their engagement ended.
In court it was said that Ms Jarvis discovered her fiance was in contact with another woman and cancelled the wedding, however Mr Jarvis claims they split because he was the victim of domestic abuse.
The pair traded accusations of infidelity and domestic abuse at Exeter Crown Court today, where jurors heard Ms Jarvis returned to her partner’s house and used a ladder to climb in through an upstairs window before using a lighter to set fire to tassels on the sofa in the living room.
Catherine Jarvis, 54, used a ladder to climb into her ex-fiance’s home and set fire to tassels on the sofa. She admitted arson and was jailed for 21 months, suspended for two years
She escaped from the burning house by going down the ladder but was arrested when firefighters saw her watching them.
She first denied having anything to do with the blaze and made an insurance claim for £15,000, even though she had started the fire and the damage was actually just over £3,000.
Jarvis, who now lives in Wimbledon, London, admitted arson and was jailed for 21 months, suspended for two years.
Colin Jarvis, 55, (pictured) said the couple had been together for two years before the wedding was called off and the fire happened
She was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid community work and pay £3,000 compensation by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.
Judge David Evans told Jarvis: ‘It was through great good fortune that the fire service arrived within five minutes and the fire did not spread from the property, and thankfully, no lives were put in danger.
‘The damage you caused ran to thousands of pounds and more importantly, Mr Jarvis has been left feeling unsafe in his own home. It was a ridiculously stupid thing to do.’
He said her approach to the case in her police interviews, defence statement, and insurance claim had been ‘thoroughly dishonest’ as she lied and lied and he urged her ‘to tell the truth’ in the future.
He said she only admitted the arson after she had ‘no wriggle room left’.
Originally Jarvis was not going to be prosecuted but Mr Jarvis appealed the decision.
Prosecutor Caroline Bolt said Jarvis had been living at her fiancé’s home until she discovered he was in contact with another woman and broke off the engagement on June 3, 2016. She then cancelled the wedding which was planned for July 2.
She returned to the house on June 13, by which time he had changed the locks on the front and back doors. She got in by using a ladder to reach an upstairs balcony where her key still worked.
Jarvis first denied setting the fire (pictured) and filed an insurance claim for £15,000, even though the damage was actually just over £3,000
She started the fire before leaving the same way and when arrested she told police she had gone to fetch medication and had nothing to do with the fire.
One neighbour saw her walking away from the house shortly before another saw the smoke and called the emergency services.
Miss Emily Pitts, defending, said Jarvis was in emotional turmoil at the time but the fire had not been a revenge attack.
Jarvis was said to have moved on with her life in the two years since the fire and has a new job and a new relationship.
Miss Pitts said her client had not lit the fire deliberately but had been flicking a lighter when the upholstery caught fire. She had not used any accelerant.
Although it was said in court that the wedding was called off after Jarvis claimed she had found Mr Jarvis was attempting to start another relationship, he denies this.
Responding to the claims outside court, he said: ‘That was fabricated. It was mentioned in court, but I think that was trying to get her a lesser sentence.
Jarvis returned to the house on June 13 2016, by which time Mr Jarvis had changed the locks on the front and back doors. She got in by using a ladder to reach an upstairs balcony
‘She had seen a text message sent to someone, but there wasn’t a relationship or anything. We’d split up because she hit me with the crab, after she hit me I said ‘that’s it.”
He said: ‘We were due to be married, I called it off. That’s what triggered it all.
‘We’d been together for a good two years or so, engaged for about 12 months of that.’
Colin said his ex-fiance use to throw hot potatoes and ornaments at him while they were together.
He said: ‘Before the fire, she had been out on a hen night and she got back and battered me over the head with an ornamental crab.
‘She had thrown roast potatoes at me, I can’t stand physical violence like that at all. When she hit me with the crab it was over. It took me a good while to get her out, a month or so.
‘I was woken up one night and she was stood in my bedroom saying, ‘I love you’ and all that. I told her to get out and said it was over.
‘I could forgive the hot potatoes but when she battered me with the crab it was a red flag – no one needs that.’
Mr Jarvis said a neighbour told him about the fire at his home.
He said: ‘I was working away, in Surrey, and my neighbour rang me and said my house was on fire.
‘I’ve lived there for 30 years, it’s my castle – I’ve done a lot of work on the house over the years.
‘I set off for home and called the police because it was obvious to me Cath had started it. She was stood outside watching the fire. She was arrested that same day, she was in the police van when I got there.
‘She denied it and the police told us they were dropping the case but I appealed the decision and I got them to look at it again.
‘That time they decided there was enough and it went to court. She changed her plea right at the last minute.’