An embittered wife who torched her £400,000 family home to spite her husband of 27 years after they became embroiled in an acrimonious divorce has been jailed for almost three years.
Mother-of-three Janette Higginson, 57, rang police herself to say the estranged couple’s semi detached property was ablaze and declared: ‘I’m not bothered, I am outside my house now – it’s burning, it’s up to you.’
Firefighters dashed to the four-bedroom suburban house where Higginson had lived for 36 years to find her sitting outside covered in soot.
It is thought she started the blaze – which caused £14,500 of damage to the the hallway and front room – using a lighter and a tin of furniture polish before making a failed attempt to douse the flames with water.
Higginson’s immediate neighbours were forced to flee their property but were not injured and their house was not damaged. It emerged the blaze occurred on the day Higginson had received a solicitor’s letter thought to be regarding the sale of the property.
Janette Higginson, 57, (pictured) torched her £400,000 family home as part of a bitter feud
Higgison was embroiled in a bitter divorce with her husband (left) who she was married to for 27 years
The blaze was the climax of a bitter hate campaign waged by Higginson against her neighbours, builder and in-laws in Firwsood, near Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester following the collapse of her marriage to husband Steve.
During the campaign she had claimed she had been left out of a family will and made false accusations against relatives – usually whilst fuelled on white wine.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Higginson a businesswoman who worked in the hospitality industry admitted arson and breaching a restraining order and was jailed for 34 months.
The incident occurred on June 11 this year at 2pm. Prosecutor Lisa Boocock told the hearing: ‘The defendant herself rang the police and stated her house was on fire. She said, ‘I’m not bothered, I am outside my house it’s burning, it’s up to you’.
‘It is a semi-detached house and she had lived there for some time with her husband and they were in the process of getting divorced. The defendant accepts it was a deliberate act out of frustration to some extent it was revenge because of the acrimonious divorce she was going through.
‘When the fire brigade attended the fire was in the downstairs front room and two firemen entered the house with breathing apparatus and found the defendant covered in soot sat outside clearly intoxicated. Inside there were two sites of ignition with a lighter and furniture polish nearby but it’s unclear whether that was used in the fire.
‘They found damage of about £14,500 caused to the house in the downstairs and front room. There was some damage in the hallway and smoke damage. The bay windows needed to be replaced along with the flooring and the walls had to be re-plastered and there was damage to furniture and other items in the dining room. But it seems that the house was insured.
‘Mr Higginson is concerned the defendant has done this deliberately so he’s left with nothing.
‘They had a 27-year marriage which was plagued by both of them using alcohol and the defendant continued to abuse it – and he believes that’s been the cause of this. Mrs Higginson was taken to hospital with burns to her hands and smoke inhalation.
‘She made admissions to starting the fire and having a dispute with her ex-husband and was frustrated couldn’t sell the house.’
Higginson had already been made subject of a restraining order after harassing Mr Higginson’s sister Tracey Dunphy
Police arrived at the property to find the businesswoman sat outside covered in soot
Higginson had already been made subject of a restraining order after harassing Mr Higginson’s sister Tracey Dunphy following the passing of father in 2018. She was angry her estranged husband had not received any inheritance money from his late father and would turn up univited at the home of Mrs Dunphy and her husband Michael and start ‘kicking off.’
The victims said their house was vandalised with scratch marks with Higginson also smashing a wine bottle against their front door and shouting abuse at them from the street.
She also harassed a builder who stopped construction work at her house due to her drunken behaviour. She would also attend at other addresses where he was working and shout: ‘you took a back hander from the council to get permission for that work.’
Little mitigation was offered for Higginson at the hearing. But at an earlier trial Higginson’s lawyer Emma Hassall said: ‘She had ran a successful business and a family home but she lost her job and as a result turned to alcohol.
‘Her husband has left their home and removed all his belongings. He had stopped paying his part of the mortgage and she has cashed in her pension and made arrangements to pay half the mortgage.
‘She was initially able to keep the house and there was a lot of pressure on her from her husband wanting a divorce and wanting the house selling. There clearly are some issues with anxiety, stress and depression but in the main it has been alcohol issues. They caused the breakdown of this relationship.’
Sentencing Higginson Judge John Potter told her: ‘You are an intelligent women but your behaviour on the afternoon and evening was nothing more or less than a disgrace. It was inspired throughout by self-indulgence and your continued wish to abuse alcohol.
‘Earlier that day you had received a solicitors letter in relation to your impending divorce from your husband and the content of the letter caused you distress. Not for the first time in your life you decided to resort to consuming large quantities of alcohol to deal with this distress and you well knew it would turn you into a dangerous, destructive, violent, foul-mouthed menace.
‘You decided to set to your house causing damage to your neighbour’s house and then spurned the help of others trying to help you and seek to detain you by being abusive and aggressive towards them. I accept you have mental health difficulties and developed alcohol dependency but none of this properly excuses your appalling behaviour.
‘Thankfully your neighbour was not greatly affected by the fire in the sense of them suffering any harm either to themselves or their property.
‘But the fact you set a fire in your house which is immediately attached to your neighbours clearly placed them at risk of serious harm.
‘Also those who attended at the scene to deal with the fire were themselves clearly placed at risk in having to enter your property to extinguish the blaze. When the police attended you told them that you and told them you ‘were not bothered about what you had done.’
‘Your house was significantly damaged by the fire particularly in the room where you had started it. On arrest, your behaviour was described as erratic and aggressive and to put it bluntly that’s an understatement. Whilst at the hospital having care administered to you, you began screaming highly inappropriate language at the police officers falsely claiming you were being bullied.
‘This behaviour was at a time when our hospitals where placed under additional stress and strain with having to deal with the current pandemic.
You have three children who are now adults who support you and contribute positively to their communities and are a credit to you. It’s a great pity you at this stage in your life are unable to reciprocate this.’