Jail for man who caused major explosion which destroyed his Leeds home during act of revenge

Richard Dickenson.
Richard Dickenson.

A MAN who caused a major explosion which destroyed his home during an act of revenge towards his estranged wife has been jailed for six years.

Garage manager Richard Dickenson, 47, doused his one-bedroom bungalow with petrol before torching the property.

The blaze created a explosion with tore the roof off the property at The Crescent, Tingley, Leeds, and placed his neighbours’ lives in danger.

Six other properties had to be evacuated during the incident which was attended by 45 firefighters on May 28 last year.

Dickenson admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and was jailed in January.

The case could not be reported until now for legal reasons.

At an earlier hearin, Dickenson had claimed he had started the blaze while under chronic stress and intended to harm only himself.

But Judge Sally Cahill, QC, told Dickenson she was satisfied he had planned the fire in advance in a mood of self pity.

She said: “You are a manipulative and self-centred man who has little regard for the feelings of others.”

The prosecution’s case was that Dickenson had deliberately stored up to 12 gallons of petrol in the property and had moved his prized Harley Davidson motorbike and BMW sports car out of harm’s way before starting the blaze.

During the hearing Dickenson disputed the claim. He said he had become stressed at work and was upset due to his wife being in poor health.

He said she had moved out of their home before the incident and her family were not talking to him.

He told Leeds Crown Court: “I just snapped, I was crying my eyes out. It was just one thing after another going wrong.”

Dickenson insisted that he only had three gallons of petrol in the property and didn’t think he would place his neighbours in danger.

He said: “I lit the paper and threw it onto the sofa. I sat down and watched the flames. I don’t know how long for. It might have been only for a few seconds.

Then there was this almighty bang.”

Sentencing Dickenson, judge Cahill said she concluded that was a planned act of revenge more than a momentary reaction.

She said she believed Dickenson had been upset at the situation he found himself in but at the same time he had relationships with two other women and his upset was more self pity.

She added: “This was a deliberately planned act for his wife and children turning their backs on him. I do not accept that he intended to kill himself.”

John Batchelor, mitigating, said Dickenson was “emotionally volatile” at the time of the incident.

Detective Inspector Sean Duggan, of Leeds District CID, said: “Dickenson’s actions in deliberately starting a fire at his home caused an explosion which could have had far more serious consequences for people in proximity of his address. As it was, he was the only person who was injured.

“The incident required a significant response from the emergency services and Dickenson had to be rescued from the property by firefighters. It also caused understandable concern among local residents. Arson is rightly treated as a very serious crime and the sentence he has received should remind people of the consequences of potentially lethal behaviour like this.”

Eye-witnesses said they saw 10ft-high flames lapping the roof, which has been destroyed, and fire crews from across West Yorkshire were called in to help control the blaze.

Next-door neighbours Joyce and Barry Bedford heard the blast as they were sat watching television.

Mr Bedford said: “I grabbed Joyce and pulled her out of the house and into the street where we could see huge flames and smoke everywhere.”

“Everyone was out in the street, calling the fire brigade, looking to see what was going on.”

He added: “The roof tiles were all over the place, it was smoky and black and there were massive flames.”

Neighbour, Amanda Swift, 43, said: “I was driving down the road at about half nine when I just heard this big bang, and saw these huge flames, and smoke everywhere.

“The roof had been blown off, it was horrific.”