farmer tractor
The one-handed Spanish farmer was found by police smoking a cigar next to his burning carGetty

A farmer who cut off his own hand and staged a car crash as part of an elaborate insurance scam has been jailed for four years. The 42-year-old man, from Spain, was sentenced to four years in prison on 13 January and ordered to repay some €335,000 (£253,000, $365,000) in insurance money.

The provincial court heard how the desperate man, identified by local newspaper Las Provincias as "Miguel BP" from Castellon in eastern Spain, had become so behind on his mortgage repayments he decided to stage an extraordinary scam to cash in on multiple insurance policies.

In the early hours one morning in December 2007, he took a sharp blade and hacked off his right hand before wrapping it in a tourniquet to control the bleeding. Miguel then drove his car, possibly with the help of another, in the pitch black to a point where there was a curve in the road, and "crashed" down a ditch next to an orange grove.

The court heard how the farmer then placed his severed hand in the footwell of his car before setting the vehicle alight with petrol he had brought with him. Having called emergency services, the one-handed farmer was found by police sitting at the side of the road smoking a cigar.

He claimed at the time he had swerved to avoid an animal in the road before crashing down the embankment. A metal bar had smashed through his windscreen, he said, and sliced his hand clean off. The incident saw him collect on some 12 insurance policies with eight different companies to the value of €1.9m, according to Las Provincias.

But a subsequent investigation by a private detective agency on behalf of the insurance companies led to him being taken to court.

The First Section of the Provincial Court of Castellon found him guilty of fraud. He was also handed a €3,000 fine.