Wigan man jailed for setting fire to his partner's pub

An arsonist set fire to his partner’s pub in a fit of jealousy after accusing her of seeing someone else, a court heard.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 12:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 2:10 pm

Karl Banks sparked a blaze which ripped through the living quarters at the Earl of Balcarres pub in Scholes in February, after a row with his then-partner and pub landlady, Leanne Brownbridge.

Banks, 38, became angry after accusing her of seeing another man and later, in an enraged state, set fire to her bedroom above the pub.

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Karl Banks. Image: GMP

Ms Brownbridge had been at hospital with her poorly daughter at the time. She described the charred remains of her home as akin to “scenes from a horror film” and revealed she and her daughter had “lost everything.”

At Bolton Crown Court, Banks was jailed for more than three years after admitting to arson.

Prosecuting, Jane Dagnall told the court how Banks was contacted by Ms Brownbridge on February 2, to ask if he could collect her unwell 16-year-old daughter from school. He returned to the pub with the girl, at which point Ms Brownbridge decided to take her daughter to hospital. She asked Banks to remain at the pub, which had been closed since October due to Covid restrictions, and look after her two dogs.

They spent the day “chatting amicably” over WhatsApp, but it was shortly after 10pm that evening, the court heard, that Banks sent another message to Ms Brownbridge, asking about a man called “Jimbob”.

The aftermath of the fire. Image: CPS

Ms Brownbridge reportedly became annoyed that Banks felt more concerned about “Jimbob” than her sick daughter, and they engaged in an argument which ended with her telling him to get out of the pub, shortly after 11pm.

Moments later, the fire service was called to reports of a fire at the premises.

Around 11.15pm, Ms Brownbridge received a phone call from the police, informing her that her pub was ablaze, and they collected her from the hospital and took her home.

She arrived to find the pub taped off by police, and the fire service at work dousing the flames.

The Earl of Balcarres in Scholes. Image: Google

She was only allowed to go into the bar area to check the cameras and collect the dogs. She went back to the building the next day, and was “hysterical to see what she described as scenes from a horror film.”

Inside the pub, there was a smashed Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle by her bed, and an empty litre bottle of Jagermeister on the pool table.

“She and her daughter have lost everything”, the prosecution said.

The seat of the fire was found to be a bed in the front bedroom, which had been “directly burnt”. A lighter was found on the floor nearby.

In a victim impact statement, Ms Brownbridge said: “I am absolutely heartbroken that mine and [my daughter’s] home had been destroyed in this way.

"I believed Karl loved me and [my daughter] and can’t believe he has destroyed our lives [like] this...making us homeless”.

Banks was arrested the day after the blaze, at his mother’s house, and he admitted that he had been involved in the incident.

When interviewed, he said that he and Ms Brownbridge had been together about six months. He was suspicious about her involvement with another man.

The court was told that, on the night of the fire, he had finished a bottle of Jagermeister and became more angry about the other man. He trashed the bedroom and smashed a bottle of whiskey.

“He thought of her sleeping with men in the bed so grabbed a lighter and burnt the bed which went up quickly,” the prosecutor said.

Banks had tried to put the fire out, but the flames were uncontrollable. He fled the scene when the fire alarm sounded, and slept in a field before going to his mum’s house, where he was detained.

Banks was jailed for a total of three years and four months. A restraining order, preventing Banks from contacting Ms Brownbridge and her daughter, was also imposed.

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