Divorce papers were 'final straw'

Receiving divorce papers from his estranged wife was the final straw that pushed him over the edge, the man accused of blowing her house up said in court.

Receiving divorce papers from his estranged wife was the final straw that pushed him over the edge, the man accused of blowing her house up said in court.

Leighton Richards, 37, said he did not believe in divorce and he still loved Sabrina Motta, 35. He said he knew he had done wrong and deserved to go to prison. But he denies arson while recklessly endangering life.

The surveyor, of Hibbert Road, Walthamstow, said he went to the couple's house in Brooke, near Norwich, planning to burn the presents from their wedding eight years earlier.

He said: “I thought she had acted abysmally. I didn't think she deserved to have the wedding gifts we had been given. I was going to burn things.”

He told Norwich Crown Court that he then smelled aftershave belonging to his boss, on the couple's bed. “I was upset, obviously. I thought they had been there together.”

Later that day he was “shocked” to receive the divorce papers from his wife. He said: “I didn't want to be divorced. I think it is wrong. I had been devastated and ripped to shreds for months: it was just too much for me.”

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He broke down as he said: “I just lost it at that point. I just wanted to die… That particular day just tipped me over the edge.”

He wrote a suicide note which named his wife as his next of kin and blamed her for not giving him money or letting him move on. It said: “Pity she's not here to enjoy the BBQ in person.”

He said: “The plan was to pour petrol around the downstairs, put the can in the oven, turn the oven on so it would heat up and go bang after 10 or 20 minutes, by which time I would be dead because I was going to hang myself upstairs… I didn't think of anyone else. It was a purely selfish act.”

He later said: “I am prepared to go to prison for what I have done. What I have done was wrong.” But he said although he did pour petrol around downstairs, he did not light it.

Richards was badly burned in the blast on June 22 last year and spent six weeks in hospital. He still wears gloves to cover the scars, and told the court he had “Frankenstein hands and Frankenstein legs”.

“I am burnt for the rest of my life. I can't get away from it.”

He said he did not want a divorce “because I love her,” and that after she left him he was “destroyed, devastated”.

He broke down as he described how he twice drove to her parents' home in Italy to see her, taking photographs to try to reawaken her love. But his attempt failed and he started asking her for money.

Although Ms Motta bought the £210,000 house in Burgess Way, Brooke, with the proceeds of the sale of her flat in Italy, he said it belonged to him too because he had contributed to the household for years and made improvements to the Italian flat.

He accused his ex-wife of telling lies about his behaviour and said she was “bitter and twisted”.

Tyrone Belger, defending, said the couple were “together and in love for many years.”

He added: “He wasn't a monster then. It all got to him, big time. He truly and sincerely intended to take his own life. He intended to hang himself. The last think he wanted was for his plan to be ruined, to find himself on fire in the front room.

“He has committed a crime, but the most he is guilty of is attempting to destroy that property.”

In his closing speech, Matthew McNiff, prosecuting, said Richards had “something deeply disturbing about him”. He added: “This was to be his final act of revenge, his 'I told you so'.”

The trial is expected to finish on Monday.