It is an odd way to show your love and commitment, but it seems to work in this case.

A UK husband repeatedly set fire to his brother-in-law’s barns in a bizarre attempt to persuade his estranged wife into giving up divorce proceedings.

But while the arson landed him in jail – it did win his wife back. David Le Marquand, 49, admitted causing three barn fires on farms owned by his brother-in-law, William Yeo, and attempting to blackmail his wife Christine into staying with him.

The attacks around Launceston in Cornwall cost Mr Yeo more than £300,000 but in act of “staggering” charity he and his sister forgave Le Marquand, a court heard. Mr Yeo even agreed to buy him a new family home.

Unfortunately the criminal justice system was not so forgiving. Le Marquand, a father-of-two who ran a marine transport company, was jailed for four years.

Llewellyn Sellick, prosecutor at Truro Crown Court, said that Mrs Le Marquand separated from her husband of 25 years after he revealed last year that he had had an affair with a younger woman who was HIV positive.

He left the marital home the next day and she started divorce proceedings.

Medical tests showed that he had not become infected.

Le Marquand told police he had paid two Russian men £10,000 to start the fires at addresses around Cornwall.

He claimed that Mr Yeo had always resented him because he was not a farmer, and complained that farms had been given to other members of the family but not to his wife.

Le Marquand, of Trebursye, Launceston, and his wife are now reconciled and her brother has taken the radical step of purchasing a property for them in Launceston, Cornwall, defence counsel Rupert Taylor said.

“It is a staggering attempt by the family to rebuild their relationship,” he said. “Mrs Le Marquand has taken the most charitable and Christian approach to the situation one could imagine”.

Mr Taylor said that it was Mrs Le Marquand’s belief that her husband had suffered a breakdown through stress and the failure of his yacht haulage business and it was also her view that when she married she had married for life.

Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC emphasised that the jail sentence should not be seen as a punishment on Mrs Le Marquand but he had to reflect the public outrage at the burning down of three substantial country barns.

The three barn fires, at Bowithick Farm, Mr Yeo’s home, at Lowertown Farm, near Camelford and Webbs Down Farm near Bolventor had caused about £300,000 damage.

Judge Clark said that the 198 days Le Marquand had already spent in custody would count towards his sentence.

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