Petrol station arsonist jailed for five years

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Russell Osborne Russell Osborne

Terrifying CCTV images of the moment when petrol was poured over a van and set alight on the forecourt of the Northgate filling station in Devizes were shown to a court.

Groundsman Russell Osborne, 35, of Waiblingen Way, Devizes, was sent to prison for five years after pleading guilty to arson with intent to endanger life last July 26.

In the footage shown to Winchester Crown Court, Osborne was seen taking a green plastic petrol can from his red Ford Fiesta, approaching the white van with Winston Burke and Edward Goldbourne inside, pour the petrol over the driver’s side of the vehicle and then, bending down, setting light to it.

Osborne’s T-shirt is also seen in flames. He quickly strips it off before climbing into his car, reversing out of the forecourt and driving off.

Dawn Hyland, prosecuting, told the court on Friday that Osborne had told the men: “I’ve got something for you.”

As he approached the van, Mr Burke, who was in the driving seat, closed his window.

After Osborne set light to the van, Mr Burke was seen to leap out, grab a fire bucket and throw the sand over the vehicle while Mr Goldbourne fetched a fire extinguisher.

Miss Hyland referred to a statement from Mr Goldbourne who had told police: “I was petrified for my life.

“I really thought I was going to die.”

Although there was extensive damage to the exterior of the van, it was still driveable.

Miss Hyland told the court that there had been an incident between Mr Osborne and his two victims at the Three Crowns pub, Devizes, on March 23 last year in which Osborne had come off worse.

But Andrew Eddy, defending, said that the incident on July 26 was not a revenge attack but had been sparked by provocative gestures made to Osborne by Mr Burke on that evening.

Mr Eddy said: “My client’s act was without premeditation.

“He had been suffering with depression and was at the end of his tether.

“He can’t possibly have thought of the consequences of his actions. It was a split second of madness.”

But he admitted that the results of Osborne’s actions could have been a lot worse.

Passing sentence, Judge Guy Boney QC told Osborne he accepted that the attack was unpremeditated and he was giving him the full one-third discount on his sentence because of his early guilty plea.

But he said: “There was a very serious risk to public safety from your actions.

“Filling station forecourts are covered in notices advising not to use naked flames. If there had been an explosion the consequences are not to be thought about.”

Judge Boney sentenced Osborne to five years in prison, reduced from seven and a half because of his early guilty plea.

Two charges of attempted murder were withdrawn after the Crown Prosecution Service said that no evidence would be offered.

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