A burglar who crept into the flat above a shop has been jailed for six years after he launched a fireball at the shopkeeper who tried to stop him.
Daniel Gibson, 23, was caught by the shopkeeper trying the door of the bedroom as the man talked on the phone to his wife.
Preston Crown Court heard the shopkeeper had finished his shift at the Best One convenience shop in Friargate, Preston, around 11am and had gone upstairs.
He was in his bedroom when he heard the door handle turn and shouted out, “Who’s there?” as friends and family would usually knock.
But when he went to see who was outside his bedroom he saw Gibson – who he had seen begging outside Tesco Express earlier – and asked what he was doing.
Gibson claimed to be looking for a flat to rent but the shopkeeper recognised him as a regular beggar and became suspicious.
He told Gibson to go downstairs and said he would ring the landlord but as they passed the open door of the shop on the ground floor the shopkeeper shouted to his colleague behind the counter to call the police.
Gibson tried to push past but when the shopkeeper tried to stop him, Gibson sprayed butane gas from a cannister inside his jacket and lit it with a lighter.
Judge Christopher Cornwall, sentencing, said: “You say you are a habitual sniffer of gas. That is the weapon which at the time of the offence you had in your possession.
“It is quite true it wasn’t used to facilitate the burglary, but when challenged you used, in an utterly terrifying and plainly deliberate manner.
“Your victim says a huge ball of flames came towards him. He is still extremely anxious as a result of what happened. He now feels it necessary to shut his shop in order to go to the flat above to check that all is well.
“He can’t get out of his mind the fact he could have been set on fire which he describes as an event which would have been life changing.”
Gibson, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary.
The court heard he had a troubled upbringing and had been abusing solvents since the age of 15. He pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and was jailed for six years.
Judge Cornwall said: “To put it bluntly, you have no future while you continue to use class A drugs and resort to crime to sustain that addiction, and while you remain tempted to enter people’s homes in search of the wherewithal to buy more drugs.
“These are matters for you to think about while you wait for your release from prison.”