Bungling arsonist set himself on fire

Liverpool Crown Court
Liverpool Crown Court

A man high on Spice accidentally turned himself into a human fireball after pouring petrol over his car and setting it alight.

Anthony Waterson ran down the road in flames while a horrified schoolgirl watching through her bedroom window has been left psychologically damaged.

The Leigh 31-year-old had not put the handbrake on his Vauxhall Vectra and, after it exploded, it rolled down the road and set fire to two parked cars, writing one of them off.

Liverpool Crown Court heard he could given “no good reason” for his behaviour. “But he describes it as a moment of madness which he bitterly regrets,” said his barrister Kate Morley. He fled the scene in the quiet cul-de-sac in Whiston, Merseyside, but was tracked down to the local hospital where he was being treated for third and fourth degree burns and he spent 10 days as an in-patient.

Chris Taylor, prosecuting, said that at about 11pm on January 17 a female resident of Nelson Avenue heard a car “razzing around with wheels spinning” and also heard a lot of male voices. Looking out she saw at least two people in a white estate car and behind it a silver Vectra with Waterson in the driver’s seat.

“She saw him get out and it looked as if he was pouring something over it but she could not see what it was. She heard males in the white car shouting at him ‘bomb it, bomb it’. The defendant walked away from the silver car and then turned back and threw what she presumed to be a lighter at the car which then exploded into flames.

“He must have poured something on himself because she saw his legs on fire and flames reaching up his body and on his back. He then ran towards the white car but, probably understandably, those in the car drove away clearly not wanting someone who was on fire getting into their car.”

Meanwhile the brake was not on the Vectra and it rolled forwards, setting two parked cars alight. In a victim impact statement, owner of one of the cars Jennifer Dooley told how her daughter, who was screaming at the incident, had been left “very upset and shaken” by the events.

Waterson told police he had just bought the car for a couple of hundred pounds and had not set fire to it to destroy evidence of any crime. He told police: “I was stupid, I should not have set the car on fire.”

At an earlier hearing a judge heard the accused admitted taking Spice before the incident. Waterson, of Robertshaw Street, admitted two counts of arson and driving without a licence or insurance.

Miss Morley said an apologetic Waterson “had an extremely disturbing upbringing” with severe consequences. He has been using alcohol and drugs since the age of 10 which has had dire consequences on his life. He also has an underlying diagnosis of ADHD.

Sentencing him to 12 months’ jail suspended for 18 months, Judge Rachel Smith said the consequences of his behaviour included the “terrible affect” on Ms Dooley’s daughter.

Acknowledging his troubled upbringing, she said: “I cannot assess what motivated you to set fire to your own car but I am satisfied you were not motivated to carry out a deliberate attack on any person or their property.”

She ordered him to carry out up to 10 days’ rehabilitation activities and attend the Thinking Skill programme. Waterson also got a 10-month road ban.