Garstang family were sleeping in home when Wigan man committed arson over cannabis 'debt' row

Two children were sleeping in their beds when a disgruntled man torched their dad's car in revenge over an alleged cannabis debt.

By Stef Hall
Friday, 13th August 2021, 3:45 pm

Colin Cooper, 31 of Downall Green Road, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Wigan, poured petrol over Liam Passmore's Skoda and set it alight at 3.30am on July 24, following weeks of making demands and threats to him.

Prosecuting, Charlie Brown said had it not been discovered promptly the fire could, by virtue of the vehicle's position, have spread to the house and the lives of the children would have been endangered.

Cooper is now starting a 32 month jail term after admitting blackmail and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Crown Court

Preston Crown Court heard Cooper believed Passmore owed him money for purchase of cannabis bush which he believed was worth £3,200, but that Mr Passmore had paid him £1,800 less for, leading to a dispute.

Mr Brown said: "As is often case there was a dispute over quality of the material and there was something in region of an £1,800 difference in what Mr passmore paid and what Mr Cooper thought he should have paid

"This resulted in Mr Cooper pressing for his money and he contacted Alice Cok, who was Mr Passmore's former girlfriend with whom, during lockdown, he was living so they could share the care of their children aged two and five."

On July 3, 2020, Miss Cook received a Facebook message asking who had the children, which appeared to come from the defendant's girlfriend.

There was a further message suggesting she persuade Mr Passmore to get in contact with Mr Cooper.

She then received a long message saying: " This isn't Rosin it's her fella I think you need to get contact with him... if this is not resolved there will be significant consequences, take my word for it. I will hop, skip and jump back into jail if this is not sorted."

He went on to say: "I want that money in by the weekend."

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Miss Cook replied that she "didn't give a s*** and his reply was: "No problem."

Three weeks later on July 24 at 3.30am she was asleep in an upstairs bedroom when she heard a sizzling sound outside and could smell smoke.

Mr Brown added: "She could see the front and rear of Mr Passmore's Skoda parked on the drive was on fire.

"She went downstairs and woke him and she went and moved her vehicle.

"She could smell a strong smell of petrol. She moved it out of the way and could see a vehicle driving away very quickly.

"One of the fire engines summoned was very nearly struck by a rapidly reversing Nissan Micra coming away from the scene.

"Mr Cooper's girlfriend owned a Micra and he was insured to drive it."

The defendant was traced by cell siting technology and denied being responsible.

Cooper, who is now the dad of a five week old baby, later admitted blackmail and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Defending, Claire Brocklebank said he was "distraught he had put himself in this position" and revealed he had mental health issues.

Sentencing, Recorder Michael Blakey said: " You wanted that money and you pressed for that money.

"This was a reckless endangerment of life and it seems to me, notwithstanding the value of the damage, there was a significant risk of serious physical harm.

"The fact of the matter is you cannot go round threatening people then carrying out that threat by setting fire to their property.

"It is completely and utterly unacceptable and very, very dangerous, and the message has to go out to people who believe that is how they get their way that if you do that, you will lose your liberty.

"Blackmail is a nasty offence for a whole host of reasons: it's frightening, its scary "

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