An arsonist who constructed a homemade “petrol bomb” and threw it at the doorway of couple’s first floor flat has been jailed for the late night attack.

A court heard yesterday (Thurs) that 26-year-old James Aykroyd from Liversedge decided to take the law into his own hands because he was frustrated about “rumours” in the area that he had been responsible for an earlier arson attack which had forced Joseph Ramsden and his partner Tracy Boothroyd to move to the flat in Whytecote End, Wyke.

In the early hours of June 17 Aykroyd, who was high on cocaine and alcohol, initially tried to scare off the couple by covering his face with a scarf and arming himself with a hammer.

He gave someone else’s name in order to trick Mr Ramsden into opening the flat door and then rushed towards the complainant.

Prosecutor Stephanie Hancock said Mr Ramsden managed to take the hammer off Aykroyd and during the struggle his partner pulled the scarf off the defendant’s face.

The defendant fled, but while the couple were at a neighbour’s flat hoping to recover some CCTV footage of the incident he went back to his own home on the same road and tried to make his own Molotov cocktail using a plastic drinks bottle, a cloth wick and petrol from a garden strimmer.

Miss Hancock said the complainants were still at the neighbour’s home when they heard the smoke alarms go off and looked out to see a fire in front of their doorway.

“You’ve seen from the photographs that very fortunately the damage done was some charring and smoke damage to each of the UPVC front doors,” Miss Hancock told Judge Jonathan Rose.

Police officers arrested drunken Aykroyd soon after the incident and during an interview in August he fully admitted what he had done that night.

Aykroyd, who admitted arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, said he was constantly being accused of the previous arson and it all got on top of him.

He claimed that his intention that night had been to scare the couple so they would stop making allegations.

“He admitted it was dangerous, but said his intention was to scare them and it all got out of hand,” said Miss Hancock.

“He has since moved from the area and sought help with his addictions.”

Miss Hancock referred to victim impact statements from the complainants in which they described how the incident had caused them difficulties with sleeping.

“They have screwed shut their letterbox for fear a petrol bomb could be placed inside,” she said.

Judge Rose highlighted the fact that the couple lived in a first floor flat which only had one way out and they would have had to jump from a window if the fire had taken hold.

Barrister Christopher Dunn, for Aykroyd, said his thinking that night could be described as “completely insane.”

He said his client felt ostracised over the arson allegations.

“He went to the shop one night and was accused by 10 separate people of having committed the earlier offence which he hadn’t,” said Mr Dunn.

“That was the catalyst for him saying well if I’m being blamed for it I might as well do it. It’s insane thinking. It’s not how he normally is.”

Imposing a sentence of 26 months in jail Judge Rose said he accepted that Aykroyd, now of Upper Barker Street, Liversedge, was isolated and deeply unhappy as a result of the allegations, but that did not justify the truly awful offence he had committed.

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Judge Rose said rather than taking sensible measures Aykroyd had gone to the flat having armed himself with a hammer and wearing a disguise.

The judge added: “They lived in a flat with one entrance. If your plan had worked, as you thought it would, they would have been trapped upstairs and two people would have died unless they had jumped from the first floor window.”

Aykroyd’s not guilty plea to arson with intent to endanger life was accepted by the prosecution, but Judge Rose said:”You were reckless. You didn’t care whether they died or not and that’s why, despite Mr Dunn’s entreaties, you are going to prison today and you are going to prison for a substantial period of time.

“You do not take the law into your own hands. You do not take vengeance on people in this way.”

Aykroyd was given a concurrent year-long jail sentence for threatening Mr Ramsden with the hammer and he was also made the subject of a lifetime restraining order which bans him from contacting the couple or going within 590 metres of their home.