A FORMER bank manager has denied using petrol in a bid to burn down the family's luxury home while his family was asleep upstairs.

Glenn Hunt said his family was the most important thing in his life and that he would do nothing to harm them.

He denied that £30,000 worth of debts, which he described as 'revolving credit' for his businesses, had made him depressed.

He said he had no intention of either killing himself or his family, which includes two teenage children, on the night of the fire.

Hunt, aged 46, formerly of Ridgemont Close, Horwich, appeared at Bolton Crown Court on the third day of his trial and denied committing arson with intent to endanger life and an alternative charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered on May 24 last year.

Giving evidence Mr Hunt said he was former manager of the NatWest bank at UMIST for three years until 1995 when he took voluntary redundancy.

He told the court that he had fallen asleep on the settee in the living room while watching a film but was woken at around 4am by a loud bang.

When he opened the lounge doors to the hall he was met with a wall of black smoke and he said he just closed the doors and froze.

He heard his wife shouting instructions to the children and he then attempted to break the locked windows with a table and then his hands.

He saw his son Gareth jump out of his window and later he returned with a box of keys but the window lock key was not there.

Finally neighbours, using a ladder and a rock, smashed their way through the windows and at the second attempt he escaped.

When asked directly by his barrister Geoffrey Samuels: "Did you pour petrol and set fire to it to try and destroy your home?" Hunt replied "No."

And when asked if he would deliberately do anything which would put his family at risk Hunt replied: "Never." The court heard earlier that the family had been roused by Hunt's wife Jennifer, who had just attended a fire training course, when she realised the house was on fire.

Remembering her course Mrs Hunt, headteacher at St Thomas Chequerbent CE Primary School, Westhoughton, calmly told the children to cover the cracks in the doors to prevent smoke getting into their rooms.

When senior fire officers sifted through the remains of the ground floor they noticed petrol had been used to start the fire from inside the house and alerted the police.

Earlier that evening Mrs Hunt had been preparing for her daughter Naomi's 19th birthday the following day by cooking food and wrapping presents before going to bed at 11.30pm. Mrs Hunt said she no idea about the £30,000 debts and had only learned about those following the fire. She said her husband was a normal, caring and loving father to the children.