A COUPLE have today been convicted of starting a life-threatening fire in their own Hampshire pub in an insurance scam.

Jurors at Southampton Crown Court unanimously convicted Dean and Melynda Thomas of arson after hearing they were thousands of pounds in debt because their business at The Tollhouse Inn in Lymington was struggling.

The pair had attempted to make the fire look like a malicious break-in and burglary, claiming nearly £3,000 cash had gone missing.

Jurors agreed with prosecution claims Dean Thomas, 42, started the blaze, which caused £100,000 worth of damage at the Southampton Road watering hole, in the early hours of the morning, while his step-daughter, her boyfriend and a cook were asleep upstairs.

Judge Peter Henry warned the former publican, who was also convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice, he is now facing a “lengthy” prison sentence.

Both Dean Thomas and 36-year-old Melynda Thomas, who was found guilty on the basis she knew about and aided the attempted insurance scam, were remanded in custody while reports are prepared ahead of sentencing in January.

During the trial, jurors were shown secretly-filmed footage of the couple arguing after searching a spot where police had earlier discovered a holdall containing petrol and clothes covered in fragments of glass from windows broken on the night of the blaze.