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Landlady of Tollhouse Inn pub in Lymington 'received death threats' before fire
THE landlady accused of taking part in an arson attack on a New Forest pub has told how she had received death threats in the months before the blaze.
Melynda Thomas said her brother had rung her four times to her at the pub on May 12 of last year - less than two months before the premises were badly damaged in a blaze.
Mrs Thomas claimed her brother had told her: “You're dead, your family needs to be heavy guarded.”
She said she recognised his voice and hung up. She then rang her teenage daughter's school in Christchurch as she was concerned for her safety.
Later the same day, she attended Lymington police station and told them of the calls but said she did not wish to make a witness statement because she did not wish to aggravate her relationship with him.
She did not get another threatening call from her brother who she believed was angry with her after a remark she had made to her mother on a social networking site.
Southampton Crown Court jurors heard about the calls in a statement she gave to the police after the arson attack at The Tollhouse Inn, Lymington, on July 1 last year.
Mrs Thomas, who is charged with her husband, Dean, told police how they had taken over the pub in September 2010. She said when she first heard the fire alarm go off, they were not in a hurry to check it as it had been going off "randomly," but then she heard her husband shout “fire”.
She rang 999 for the fire brigade and kicked open a small hatch in their bedroom, through which she, her daughter Debbie, her boyfriend Ashley Follett and chef Alan Watton escaped.
She said they could not escape through the room's two windows as they were stuck.
She then climbed a ladder to encourage her husband to leave but he wouldn't without their labrador. A fireman later encouraged him to leave and the fireman carried the dog to safety.
She and her husband were found with high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood and they were taken to Southampton General Hospital for examination.
She concluded her statement by saying: “Following the fire, I feel very shocked and tired. The whole situation feels like a bad dream at the moment and I now know we could have all died in the fire. I cannot believe anyone would have wanted to harm my family in this way.”
The prosecution claims her husband started the fire with her knowledge as an insurance plot as they were heavily in debt and the pub business was failing.
The court heard Mrs Thomas's brother was arrested after the fire but released without charge after his alibi was confirmed.
Dean Thomas, 42, and Melynda Thomas, 36, deny arson when reckless to whether life might be endangered and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Today the jury and court officials were being taken to view the pub.
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