Man who set fire to love rival's car is jailed

Luke Matthews

Man who set fire to love rival's car is jailed

A revenge attack which saw a 35-year-old man torch a love rival's car and leave firefighters battling to prevent 1,000 litres of oil exploding has landed him in prison.

Gustavo Gallardo, of Smithers Hill Lane in Horsham, West Sussex, was said to have become enraged after learning that his recently-separated wife had started a fling with another man.

Michael Roques, prosecuting, told Reading Crown Court that after seeing Trudy Erceg get into Julio Ruggeri's car, he followed them back to the address in Drift Road before using petrol to set fire to the red Ford Focus.

The blaze spread to a second car before firefighters desperately fought to keep the flames away from a nearby heating tank which contained 1,000 litres of oil.

Gallardo was sentenced to three years and four months at the court on Friday.

Mr Roques highlighted that hours before the attack took place at about 11.30pm on June 17, the defendant posted a comment on Facebook in Spanish which read "I want to do harm, hehehe."

The court was told how lucky Gallardo was to not be facing far more serious charges bearing in mind the close proximity of a large oil tank and a summer home which housed eight Dubai Polo Club workers.

The prosecution added that traces of petrol and scorch marks were found leading up to the corner of the bungalow but all parties agreed the Argentinian, who also worked as a polo trainer and groom, had no intention of endangering life.

Timothy Greaves, defending, said Gallardo had panicked having seen the severity of the fire and fled.

Although during initial interviews he gave excuses as to why he had petrol on his clothes, he later pleaded guilty at Reading Crown Court in September.

Judge Zoe Smith said: "This was a serious fire and, even though you set it carefully, it got more out of control than you expected and you left the scene without calling the emergency services.

"There was a large oil tank containing 1,000 litres of oil. The heat from the fire you set cause the plastic casing to melt.

"Some 75 special mats had to be used to mop up all of that oil.

"There was a serious risk of a significant explosion being caused."

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