A WOMAN has been left with an ‘enormous debt’ after her ex-partner cancelled the insurance on their £320,000 detached house before setting it on fire and totally destroying it, a court heard on Monday (May 15).

Artur Narkiewicz, 34, was jailed for four years at Gloucester Crown Court after he admitted committing arson at the property he owned jointly with his former partner Marta Szafranska in St Briavels in February this year.

The court heard that all the contents of the house were also destroyed.

Prosecutor Alex Daymond said that on February 12 this year Ms  Szafranska, who had been in a relationship with Narkiewicz for 13 years, left home at 5.10am to go to work in Bristol.

About three hours later Narkiewicz sent her an audio message saying goodbye, the dog was safe and he was in the woods.

“At 8.20am Narkiewicz sent her an audio message on social media and a minute later rang her and said ‘Goodbye.’ He told her that she wouldn’t be seeing him again. He said that the dog was safe and that he was in the woods.

She asked him not to do anything stupid before he hung up. She got a friend to driver her home and called police.

Mr Daymond said: “At around 8.30am the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service received an emergency call from one of Ms Szafranska’s neighbours, Mr Bishop, who told the call handler that the couple’s detached house, valued at £320,000, was completely ablaze.

“Mr Bishop bravely went to the house and tried all the doors and windows to see if anybody was inside. They were all locked. He shouted up at the bedroom windows, but didn’t get any response.

“Mr Bishop went to the back of the house and noticed that there were propane gas canisters connected to the property. He was worried that they could explode. He acquired a spanner from a friend, who had also arrived at the scene, and set about disconnecting these canisters. These were then carried away from the property to a place of safety.

“The first of four fire appliances arrived about 15 minutes later when crew member Mr Baylis immediately realised that the fire was burning at full intensity, and despite his normal practice to check on those inside, he considered that the blaze was too ferocious and was too risky for this to be undertaken.

“The fire crews, from Lydney and Coleford, entered the property through a gap they had created and, using breathing apparatus, assessed the situation. The crew were only able to stay in the building for 10 minutes because of falling debris.”

Another appliance arrived at the scene with a long reach aerial ladder. Fire investigators by then suspected that the blaze had been started deliberately.

When Ms Szafranska contacted their insurers later that day she found out that Narkiewicz had cancelled the policy the previous day, said the prosecutor.

Narkiewiez later told police when interviewed that he was taking his own life and that setting fire to the house was his revenge against Ms Szafranska, who had effectively ended their relationship.

Ms Szafranska said in a statement to the court: “I was devastated when he burnt down my house, along with all my personal belongings that were inside.

“My home contained all my worldly belongings – everything I ever owned, or cared about.

“The fire has made me homeless and I had to seek emergency accommodation. It has left me with major financial problems with me still owing the money for a mortgage on a property that doesn’t exist any more.

“The insurance company said that because the policy was cancelled, it was not liable to pay out anything. The total value of the house and all my belongings is in excess of £400,000. 

“I cannot afford this and I am struggling mentally and financially. The situation has left me unable to sleep at nights.

“I am constantly worried as to how I am going to rebuild my life from scratch. I have no savings as I invested everything into my home. I have been left with nothing and I still have to pay the mortgage on a property that is no longer standing.”

Mr Daymond said that it was the Crown’s case that this was a revenge attack as petrol had been used to start the fire which  put multiple people at risk, including the fire crews when they tried to enter the property.

The fact that Narkiewicz had cancelled the insurance before starting the fire showed it was a premeditated act, he added.

Edward Hollingsworth, defending, said that a psychiatric report found Narkiewicz was not mentally ill but concluded that he was obviously under a great deal of strain at the time.

“He is not somebody who needs medical treatment, but would benefit from help from professionals in the future,” said the lawyer.

“Narkiewiez was so upset that Ms Szafranska had finally called time on their relationship. He tried to rationalise the situation and felt that he was in a state of hopelessness and considered taking his own life.

“It would be very difficult for us to understand what was going on in his mind.”

Judge Rupert Lowe interjected: “I fully understand what was going on. He rang up the insurance company and cancelled the policy to ensure that his partner’s life would be ruined when he burnt the house down. What’s so hard to understand about that? There is no other way of putting it.”

Mr Hollingsworth responded: “Narkiewiez articulates that he wanted to kill himself. He wanted to destroy Ms Szafranska’s home and wipe his existence from the face of the earth.

“He fully accepts causing the loss of the house. However, this was not his principle motive as he wanted to commit suicide. The manner in which the fire was ignited was irrational.

“Up until this point, Narkiewiez had led a wholly decent life and was working at warehouse and was regularly promoted to higher positions over the past 10 years. He had helped maintain the house in St Briavels. He didn’t anticipate the end of the relationship when it came in the days prior to the arson.

“Narkiewiez said he is sorry to all those he has affected by his actions, but he is not sorry for himself. He realises that nobody will be waiting for him when he is eventually released from prison. He said there is no future for him now and has no plans. He is still struggling with the loss of his life as it was.”

Narkiewicz, a Polish national, pleaded guilty to aggravated arson and being reckless as to whether life was endangered on February 12, 2023.

Judge Lowe told Narkiewiez: “You were told that your relationship with Ms Szafranska was effectively over, it having been in decline for some time, because you both wanted different things from life.

“You were in significant despair, as you were about to lose your way of life and would be lost without Ms Szafranska by your side. You decided to take out your revenge on her.

“You cancelled the insurance policy, without her knowledge so that when you burnt the house to the ground she would lose everything.

““You waited until she had gone to work on that Sunday morning and, using a can of petrol, you spread it around the house. You removed the dog, so that it would be safe. You contacted Ms Szafranska and told her that she would not see you again.

“It was a clear message that you were going to commit suicide. She told you not to do anything stupid.

“You submitted a basis of plea in which you claim the actual lighting of the petrol occurred unintentionally when you were contemplating your position while smoking a cigarette. You then claim that the fumes became ignited.

“While this is plausible, it is highly unlikely because this was a premeditated arson attempt. You deliberately set fire to the property. And then tried to commit suicide.

“The neighbours called the fire services because they could see the blaze was an absolute inferno in which nobody could survive if they had been inside. You knew that nobody was in the house and that you had removed the dog. Your actions put the lives of a number of neighbours, passers-by and fire crews at risk.

“The house was completely destroyed, as were all of its contents. You state that it was never your intention to hurt your partner, but in doing so you have left her with the entire debt of the mortgage.

“This was a malicious revenge attack that was premeditated and nothing else. Sadly you are not in a position to pay compensation to your former partner.”

The judge sentenced Narkiewicz to four years in prison.