South West Wales

Man burnt down Whitland's Pontyrhodyn farm over eviction

Swansea Crown Court Image copyright PA

A man from Carmarthenshire burned down his £250,000 farmhouse home while in dispute with a building society trying to get him out, a court heard.

Police and firefighters arrived at Pontyrhodyn farm in Whitland to find Charles Chestnut making a barbecue and strumming a guitar.

Chestnut, 55, told police he started the fire but refused to take part in his trial at Swansea crown court.

He was convicted of arson in his absence and will be sentenced in April.

Chestnut "obliterated" Pontyrhodyn farm and a barn on 19 September last year, the day he was due in court to continue his dispute with the Yorkshire Building Society.

After his arrest, he told police: "I don't intend to defend it in any way whatsoever. Produce what ever charges you want and I will accept them."

Tom Scapens, prosecuting, said Chestnut stopped making payments for the farm and a county court granted possession to the society in 2014.

But Chestnut refused to leave the property entirely and eventually occupied a caravan on the grounds.

James Taylor, a solicitor with the building society, said the £250,000 property and land was now valued at £40,000, which would not cover the outstanding mortgage.

Judge Geraint Walters told the jury he would have been worried if they had returned anything other than guilty - and said he had been unable to tell them Chestnut had already admitted his guilt because he had not responded when the charge was put to him.

Judge Walters said he would have to decide whether Chestnut was a dangerous offender as defined by law, partly because he had said that he would burn everything else that he owned.

He said he would write to Chestnut, who is being held at Swansea prison, informing him of the verdict and asking him if he wanted a psychiatrist to asses him before the sentencing hearing.

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