Pensioner's world 'fell apart' after arson at Humberston home in row over will

Dean Dowler was pictured on camera in his disguise before the incident.

A man who disguised himself with a wig, fake beard and fake eyebrows before setting fire to an elderly woman's home in a row over his late grandmother's will has been jailed.

Dean Dowler, 42, pleaded guilty to arson following the blaze on Tetney Road in Humberston in July.

Grimsby Crown Court heard that Patricia Platts is now facing costs of more than £50,000 after losing her belongings in the fire at her home where she has lived for 36 years.

The court were told that the 78-year-old and her partner Roy Bird became friendly with the defendant's grandmother Doreen Howell and helped to care for her during her final years.

The pair along with Dowler were named as the three beneficiaries of her will which included her house.

Prosecutor Jeremy Evans said: "She wanted the will to be divided between the three beneficiaries, but the defendant said that his grandmother told him that she wanted him to be the sole beneficiary of the house in Humberston.

"The defendant was written to on June 12 and asked to vacate his grandmother's bungalow because the other two beneficiaries wanted to sell it."

The court heard that on July 14, a neighbour called Mrs Platts, who was visiting a friend, to tell her that her house was on fire.

Mr Evans continued: "While fire officers were conducting their investigation she allowed them to watch footage from her Ring doorbell. It showed a male in front of the property and it was identified as this defendant."

The court was told that Dowler, who was in disguise, started the fire at the rear of the property, dousing a blue rag in accelerant and setting garden furniture ablaze, before fleeing the scene. The fire soon spread to the main house.

"The upstairs bedroom had been destroyed from the fire and Mr Bird found a wig and he took it, put it in a carrier bag and stored it in his car. He phoned the police and they came and took the wig. After [the defendant] had started the fire, he threw his own disguise into the fire."

Grimsby Crown Court

In a victim impact statement read out to the court, Mrs Platts wrote: "My world fell apart at the seams. The incident has broken my heart. That was a home that I purchased in the 1980s. I raised my family there and it became a home for my grandchildren who would come and visit.

"I suffer nightmares and flashbacks and had to seek advice from my doctor regarding my mental health. My nerves have been affected. I've lost my wedding photos and photos of family occasions that cannot be replaced, and I've lost my sanctuary."

Dowler had been released from prison just four months prior to the incident after spending 12 years in custody for attempted murder.

Mitigating, Michael Forrest told the court that Dowler had spent "almost all of his adult life" in custody.

He said: "He wanted to move on with his life and experience adult life. He lived with his grandmother and doted on her. He found her dead - he entered her room and found her cold and realised she had passed away in her sleep. It had a devastating effect on him. The sense of sorrow and grief has not left him.

"There had been ongoing neighbour disputes between him and Mrs Platts and others. He accepts responsibility for this incident. He can see how much he has hurt [Mrs Platts]. He notes the damage he has caused and he has expressed remorse."

Dowler approached the Ring doorbell to ensure nobody was present inside the home before he started the fire, Mr Forrest told the court.

Sentencing, Judge John Thackray KC told Dowler: "You said that your intention was to set fire to the garden furniture only and that you did not intend it to spread like it did, but I do not believe that.

"Your wig was found in the fire in the bedroom. You were reckless as to whether life was endangered and did not intend to endanger life.

"This was her home of 36 years and it was rendered uninhabitable. Priceless items like her wedding photos, photos of her son growing up, photos of her grandchildren, and her collection of pottery were destroyed."

"She asked you to move out of a house that you had no right to be in and this was your form of revenge."

Dowler was sentenced to 11 years and nine months in prison with a requirement to serve six years and nine months in custody - but he will serve four years and six months before he is considered for release.

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