Thug threw petrol over scrap dealer and set it alight after victim refused to help steal lawnmower in Hartlepool

John Dunn.
John Dunn.

A man who threw petrol over a pick-up truck and set fire to its driver has been jailed for five years.

Flames engulfed the cabin of the pick-up, burning the right arm and leg of its driver, a scrap metal dealer.

The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court

The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court

The dealer and his mate were collecting scrap in Owton Manor, Hartlepool at about 11am when they were approached by John Dunn.

Dunn wanted to steal a lawnmower nearby, and argued with the scrap metal dealer after he refused to help him take it away.

After throwing the petrol and lighting it, Dunn fled in a stolen Mercedes van, Teesside Crown Court heard.

He abandoned the van, then crashed though gardens causing damage to a fence, before being arrested.

“Dunn was seen to fill a cup with petrol from a can, approach the driver’s side of the pick-up, throw the petrol, and light it,” said Emma Atkinson, prosecuting.

“Fortunately the victim was able to extinguish the fire fairly quickly.

“He suffered minor burns to his right forearm, which was treated with dressings.”

Dunn, 34, of Seaton Lane, Hartlepool, admitted arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, taking without the owner’s consent, criminal damage, and driving without a licence or insurance, all on September 26.

The court heard he has 81 previous convictions, including an assault in Scotland when he threw acid in the face of another man, and blackmail when he threatened to damage property belonging to an Asian man if money wasn’t handed over.

Stephen Constantine, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr Dunn accepts he intended to throw fuel over the pick-up and light it.

“What he didn’t realise was the driver’s door window was slightly open, enabling the fuel to get inside the cabin.

“He does have a bad record, but there are recent signs of him turning his life around.”

Judge Stephen Ashurst jailed Dunn for five years.

The judge told him: “This was a very serious offence which was only prevented from becoming a disastrous one by the victim being able to put out the fire you set on him. He was going about his lawful business, and quite rightly refused to assist you to steal. Setting fire to anyone is bad enough, but this was made worse because your victim was in a confined space.”

Dunn was banned from the roads for 42 months, equivalent to one year from his projected release date.