Cleaner avoids prison after leaving lit candle on ex-husband's sofa

Felixstowe Beach Holiday Park wants to open all year in 2021

The incident happened at Felixstowe Beach Holiday Park - Credit: MATT BUNN

A cleaner who placed a lit candle on a sofa in her ex-husband's Felixstowe caravan while he was asleep has been handed a suspended sentence. 

Susan Yates, 54, moved into her former husband's two-bedroom caravan on Felixstowe Beach Holiday Park in October 2020 after "falling on hard times", Ipswich Crown Court heard. 

Despite divorcing in 2017, Yates' ex-husband Colin Yates said he "felt sorry for her" and offered her his spare room at the caravan, providing she cut down on her alcohol intake, Marc Brown, prosecuting, told the court. 

Initially, the arrangement was fine, but in May 2021, Mr Yates noticed his ex-wife was beginning to drink every day again, normally starting at 4pm when she returned from work. 

On October 2, Mr Yates returned from the pub around 9.15pm and left his wallet on the side in the living area, Mr Brown said. 

He then got changed in his bedroom, and when he came back out, Yates walked past him and into her bedroom and appeared to be concealing something. 

Mr Yates went into his ex-wife's bedroom and discovered his Halifax bank card had been cut up. 

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Mr Yates said he did not contact the police at that time and believed Yates had destroyed the card because she didn't like him going to the pub. 

The court heard that Mr Yates asked his ex-wife to leave around 10/12 times over the last two months she was living at the caravan, but she refused. 

In the early evening of October 12, Mr Yates noticed his ex-wife appeared to be drunk. 

He went to bed early that night, around 7.10pm, but was woken by a strange smell and his bedroom door was closed after he previously left it open. 

Mr Yates went into the living room and saw the corner of his sofa and a cushion was smouldering. 

He acted quickly and threw two jugs of cold water on the area before noticing that a candle had been placed on the sofa. 

When he asked his ex-wife what she was doing, she replied: "That will teach you to use your candles."

The police were called and Yates then left in her Ford Fiesta and was stopped by officers and breathalysed.

She blew 78 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeding the 35mcg in 100ml of breath limit. 

The court heard that Yates was caught drink driving again on the A14 on Monday, and blew 69 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. 

She was sentenced for that offence on Tuesday and banned for the road for three years by magistrates. 

Peter Spary, mitigating, said his client would never want to harm her ex-husband in any way but he accepted her "foolish" actions had been fuelled by alcohol. 

Yates, of no fixed address, previously pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, criminal damage and drink driving. 

Sentencing Yates on Wednesday, Judge David Pugh said: "The consequences had he not woken up could have been very serious."

Judge Pugh sentenced Yates to 20 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 180 hours of unpaid work. 

She was also ordered to wear an alcohol sobriety tag for 120 days and complete 60 rehabilitation activity requirement days. 

She must also pay £350 in compensation to Mr Yates and a five-year restraining order was imposed, banning Yates from contacting her ex-husband. 

Judge Pugh also handed Yates a three-year driving ban, which will be served concurrently alongside her current disqualification. 

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