Gulf War veteran who drove fuel tanker into house dies weeks after starting jail term
A Gulf War veteran who drove a tanker full of jet fuel into his estranged wife’s house in Dorset and then attempted to light it has died, just weeks after beginning his seven-year sentence.
Lorry driver Hugh Billington, 52, is reported to have died in hospital from natural causes.
He was sent to prison for seven years at Dorchester Crown Court on April 30 after pleading guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, assault by beating, dangerous driving and theft.
The court heard how, on January 20 this year, Billington, who had an exemplary record with the Household Regiment, drove the tanker – which was loaded with 2,000 litres of kerosene – into the bungalow in Folly Lane, Wool. At 6.30am on the morning of the incident, Billington picked up the Watson Fuels tanker from his employer and drove to his former home in Folly Lane.
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After ramming the lorry into the front wall of the house, he was seen by children on their way to school trying to light the kerosene. The fire he started took 30 firefighters to control it and the bungalow suffered “significant” damage.
Prosecutor Jennie Rickman told the court that Billington and his wife Christine had separated after 30 years and he would not accept the marriage was over.
Timothy Shorter, defending, described Billington’s “exemplary” military career and said that during the first Gulf War he worked as a medic treating injured servicemen arriving back at RAF Lyneham from Iraq. “He is a man who for more than a quarter of a century served his country honourably,” he said.
“But through one day’s folly and stupidity he finds himself facing a substantial sentence of imprisonment.
“There are two words which perhaps sum up what happened to Mr Billington in those few hours immediately before the incident and they are his words: ‘something snapped’.”
Christine, who was in the kitchen getting ready to go to work at 8.45am, escaped through a window, the court was told. A passer-by, Darren Fletcher, reversed the lorry from the house and was praised for his actions in court by Judge Roger Jarvis.
The Prison Service said Billington died outside hospital on Thursday, June 21.