A property developer set fire to a couple’s new home in a “selfish and vindictive act” hours after they paid a £32,500 deposit and exchanged contracts to buy.
Matthew Green, 37, was “unhappy” that the pair had pulled out of the sale of two of his properties in Swaffham due to “delays and increasing costs”, Norfolk Police said.
The force said officers became aware that Green had tried to buy the property “at the last minute to annoy the buyers”, but that the owner of the property in Shoemakers Lane in Swaffham refused his offer.
The couple had paid their deposit and exchanged on the property on June 26 2019, and were due to complete on the sale.
A Norfolk Police spokesman said: “To celebrate the exchange of contracts, the couple went to dinner with friends on June 27.
“On route they stopped at the house to show them what would be their new home.
“However, when they pulled up on the driveway at around 5pm, they discovered there had been a fire which had destroyed the front of the property.”
Police investigations established that the fire was started deliberately and officers found that Green had tried to buy the property on June 25.
Green, of North Pickenham Road, Swaffham, admitted arson at an earlier hearing at Norwich Crown Court.
The couple did not complete on the sale, and lost their deposit, “for fear of their own safety”, police said.
Green had been to the address at some point between June 26 and 5pm the next day and set fire to it, the force said.
Green was sentenced on Wednesday at Norwich Crown Court to 12 months in prison suspended for 15 months and ordered to pay £8,796 in costs for damages, Norfolk Police said.
He was also ordered to complete 180 hours unpaid work and a 20-day rehabilitation programme, as well as being handed a restraining order.
Temporary Detective Inspector Richard Weller said: “This was a selfish and vindictive act motivated by greed and control.
“What should have been an exciting move to their dream home quickly became a nightmare for the victims.
“I hope today’s result provides some closure to those who suffered from Matthew Green’s actions and reassures the public that we will thoroughly investigate crimes such as this to secure a successful prosecution.
“I am proud of my team’s efforts in securing this conviction for the victims.”