A police chief torched his own car during a visit to his mistress before framing her solicitor husband for the crime, a court heard today.
Chief Superintendent James Trotman, 45, (pictured) had been using the car Citroen Xsara Picasso C4 to visit his lover Karin Gray – the wife of top solicitor Ian Gray.
He allegedly told police that Mr Gray, a partner in City law firm Eversheds, had a vengeance against him and may have been the sender of threatening emails.
Ch Supt Trotman – who was separated from his wife Charlotte – had been having an affair with Mrs Gray for ten months, Swindon Crown Court heard.
He denies one count of arson, two counts of fraud and one count of perverting the course of justice.
The court heard how on October 20, the night of the fire, the father-of-two drove to Ian and Karin Gray’s house in Oxford after watching his daughter Emma perform at a play in Wallingford.
He told officers he arrived at 9.45pm and did not return to his car until around 11.30pm, when he saw fire crews and police officers around it.
Fire investigators later put the the time of the arson at around 10.30pm.
Neighbours reported the car fire in a 999 call at 22.31 on October 20 2009 to the fire service after hearing sounds of ”fireworks” and ”popping sounds”.
Ms Fiona Elder, prosecuting, said Mr Trotman had exclaimed: ”That’s my bloody car” before admitting to officers that he had been seeing someone he shouldn’t have.
She told the court: ”They told the operator in relation to the 999 call that there was a vehicle on fire and they requested the fire brigade.
”The car was a Citroen Xsara Picasso C4 and was a car that was registered to James Trotman and he accepted on the night that it was the car that he had driven to the area.”
Mr Trotman, who was living at the marina in Abingdon, Oxon, at the time of the blaze, claimed he had locked the car before walking to Mrs Gray’s house at 9.45pm.
Fire investigations showed the blaze had not been started accidently, and found a large quantity of petrol on the floor of the passenger footwell of the car.
The car was completely destroyed apart from the outside body of car and is thought to have been ignited from the inside.
The day before the fire, Ch Supt Trotman had told Detective Superintendent Ashley Smith, a colleague at Thames Valley Police, that he had been conducting a ten month affair with Karin Gray, the jury was told.
He added that her husband had interfered in a previous affair his wife had been involved in, and said he had been receiving threatening emails warning him from visiting her home address.
Ch Supt Trotman was tipped-off by Det Supt Smith that Thames Valley Police would be arresting Mr Gray on October 21 but did not make any efforts to prevent it from happening, the court heard.
However, the investigation soon turned on Ch Supt Trotman after officers discovered a brand new camera had not been taken from the car, but a green petrol can had and was later placed in woods near where the car was parked, Ms Elder said.
Phone records also disputed timings he originally gave to officers, and showed that he sent a ”large number” of text messages to Karin Gray from 10.00pm until 10.25pm.
When he was later questioned, Ch Supt Trotman claimed he and Karin had been texting each other inside her house because it was ”a large house”, Ms Elder said.
But further records showed him driving to her house in Oxford at the time he claimed to be already there – and pinpointed his movements to the scene of the crime at the time the arson was committed, the jury was told.
Opening the prosecution to the jury of seven men and five women, Ms Elder said: ”John Trotman, the defendant, is a Chief Superintendent in Thames Valley police. He was married to Charlotte Trotman, although they were separated in October.
”Mr Trotman was involved in an affair or relationship with a woman called Karin Gray. She was married to Ian Gray and they lived in a house in Oxford.
”As you will see, the night that we are concerned with is the 20 October 2009, the night of the arson.
”On that day the prosecution say Mr Trotman set fire to the car that was registered to him. On that evening Mr Trotman travelled to the home address of Karin Gray.
”Mr Ian Gray was away on business, something that was known to both Karin Gray and Mr Trotman and they agreed to meet.”
Aggressive emails warning Ch Supt Trotman to stay away from Mrs Gray were found to have been sent from a open access computer at a leisure centre in Surrey by friends of Mrs Trotman, the court heard.
Ms Elder added that in the days before the arson, Mr Trotman researched Audi cars on the internet – and later used insurance funds to trade up his destroyed family car to a plush Quattro convertible Audi A4.
He claimed £14,820 from insurance company Elephant and also £4,880 from The Warranty Company to cover the cost of his car being completely destroyed in the fire.
Ian Gray is a partner in Eversheds and leads the firm’s Litigation & Dispute Management department.
The trial continues.