Stevenage man jailed for campaign of terror against Welwyn Garden City personal trainer after wife’s affair – but she avoids prison despite encouraging him
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A Stevenage man has been jailed for 7½ years for a hate campaign against a Welwyn Garden City personal fitness trainer who his wife had an affair with, before actively encouraging her husband’s acts of revenge once they got back together.
Neil and Louise Ansell of Dowlands were both sentenced on Tuesday and, while 46-year-old was jailed, his 36-year-old wife was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Having learnt that his wife was cheating on him with instructor Sean Smith – of Rylands in WGC – Ansell carried out vicious graffiti attacks on Mr Smith’s car. He also spray painted the driveway of the trainer’s girlfriend, Stephanie Hepke, at her parents home in North Mymms with offensive words.
And he was helped and encouraged in his wicked scheme by his wife after they had reconciled, the court hearing how she had been concerned about what Mr Smith might do with ‘cheeky pictures’ she had sent him.
A fake WhatsApp account was even set up which was used to make out Miss Hepke was two-timing Mr Smith, who the court was told have split since the ordeal.
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But things took a more sinister turn in December 2013 when the husband enlisted the help of his friend, 39-year-old James Williams, who set fire to a car on the driveway outside Miss Hepke’s home – turning the vehicle into a ‘bomb’ which exploded.
The car belonged to the girlfriend of Miss Hepke’s brother, but was similar in appearance to the Mini Miss Hepke drove.
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It was standing just four meters from the family home, with five people inside sleeping when the fire caused the vehicle’s fuel tank to explode.
Such was the intensity of the blaze, windows of the house cracked and guttering melted as the property was in danger of catching fire, and only the quick arrival of the fire brigade prevented it going up in flames.
The Ansells were both found guilty of two offences of putting a person in fear of violence by harrassment in April, but sentencing took place this week after a retrial to decide whether Neil Ansell had conspired with Williams to commit arson.
Williams – of Portman Close in St Albans – was described by the prosecutor as the ‘henchperson’ and, after being found guilty alongside his friend, was jailed for seven years.
Judge Jonathan Carroll, sitting at St Albans Crown Court, told the husband what he’d done “beggars all belief”, adding: “You set to cause as much hurt and anguish as you could to Sean Smith. You were utterly out of control.”
He told the wife, a mother of six: “You knew full well it was going on, and you were enjoying it and encouraging it.”
Jailing Williams, he said: “It’s beyond doubt that even the most unthinking person would recognise that burning a car was tantamount to setting off a bomb outside the house.”
Before Neil Ansell was led away to begin his sentence, his wife sobbed in a court dock beside him as a judge said she had actively encouraged him in his quest for vengeance on her ex-lover.