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Arsonist escapes prison term after setting light to ex-partner's convertible Audi A5

PUBLISHED: 18:00 05 February 2018

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: GREGG BROWN

An Ipswich woman who set light to her ex-partner's convertible car causing "catastrophic" damage has walked free from court after a judge decided not to send her straight to prison.

Tommy Gorham was asleep on the sofa at his Ipswich home in May last year when he heard shouting outside and when he went to investigate he discovered his Audi A5 was on fire, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

The vehicle, which cost £9,000, suffered “catastrophic” damage as a result of fire and water damage and was a write-off, said Gareth Hughes, prosecuting.

Tara Abbott, 24, of Hawthorne Drive, admitted arson on May 10, 2017, and was given a 10-month prison sentence suspended for two years, ordered to attend a Thinking Skills programme, a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement and pay a £140 victim surcharge.

Sentencing her, Judge David Goodin said court took offences of arson seriously as they had the potential to have serious consequences. Agreeing to suspend her prison sentence, he told Abbott: “Understand how very close you have come to being sent to prison.”

The court heard that Abbott and Mr Gorham had been in a relationship which ended in the early part of last year.

Mr Gorham purchased the Audi in May last year and shortly afterwards he stopped and spoke to her while he was out in it.

During the conversation, Abbott threatened to “trash” the car but by the end of the conversation she agreed she wouldn’t damage it, said Mr Hughes.

However on May 10 he found the car on fire outside his home and saw Abbott standing nearby. The police were called and when they arrived they found Abbott behaving in an erratic way and noticed the smell of white spirit on her clothing.

They found an empty white spirit container, which belonged to Mr Gorham, nearby. “It appears that it was used as an accelerant,” said Mr Hughes.

The court heard there had been a previous incident of criminal damage to Mr Gorham’s windscreen by Abbott in Kingfisher Avenue, Ipswich.

Nicola May, for Abbott, said her client’s drinking had got out of control after her children were taken into care and Abbott acknowledged Mr Gorham had been extremely supportive of her.

Miss May described the arson as a “foolish and impulsive” act.

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