A MUM feared she would die with her children in the fire set by an irate neighbour, Swindon Crown Court heard.

David Jack, formerly from Royal Wootton Bassett, poured accelerant on the woman’s front door and twice returned with paraffin to fuel the flames.

Now, the 33-year-old has been jailed for more than four years after he admitted arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered and possession of an ice axe.

Prosecutor Colin Meeke said Jack had repeatedly complained to his housing association about noise coming from the flat above his on Eddleston Road, off Ocotal Way. His gripes included the family of four leaving their tumbler dryer on overnight.

Matters came to a head on October 18 last year when he posted a letter through their door warning them to stop leaving cigarette butts on the floor outside his flat. He then went boozing with friends, drinking vodka and half a bottle of rum.

At around 3am on October 19 Courtnie Drewitt became aware of a scraping noise. “They though the defendant was drilling through the floor,” Mr Meeke said.

It was an orange glow coming from the front of the flat that revealed the terrible truth: that Jack had set fire to the front door – the only way in and out of the family’s flat.

Mr Meeke told the court: “She was scared she and her children were going to die. She held the children close to her.” Her children were aged two and 10.

Firefighters arrived within five minutes. As they got to the house the fire crew saw Jack throwing water on the flames.

He was arrested by police at the scene. They found an ice axe in his rucksack.

Jack told the arresting officer: “It wasn’t by accident. I set fire to their door.” Another police officer recorded him saying: “Those noisy so-and-sos upstairs stopped me from sleeping.”

The court heard Ms Drewitt, partner Joshua Rose and their children had had to move to a larger property. She had to take time off work. In a victim personal statement the mum-of-two spoke of still having nightmares.

Jack, formerly of Garraways, Royal Wootton Bassett, pleaded guilty last year to arson and possession of an offensive weapon.

Tony Bignall, defending, said his client regretted setting the fire and accepted there was only one sentence open to the court.

He had repeatedly complained about the noise coming from the upstairs flat but felt he wasn’t being taken seriously.

“His correct response was to go as he did to his friends and unload to them. And perhaps seeking help from his doctor would have been a better response than simply taking the law into his own hands - but he felt he was put to breaking point," Mr Bignall said.

Jack had been concussed a number of times over the course of his life, which he felt had a bearing on his condition. He was still only getting two hours of sleep a night. A psychiatric report suggested he had a personality disorder.

Jack was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment.

Raising the plight of Ms Drewitt, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “She says she thought her children would die and she said goodbye to them. She must have been terrified.”

Welcoming the sentence, Det Sgt Scott Anger said: "Jack set fire to the address following a neighbourly dispute - his actions could have had really serious consequences and I am pleased that this dangerous act has resulted in a custodial sentence.

"The swift response from the fire service meant that the fire was managed before it escalated further - Jack's dangerous actions have risked the lives of the family living in the flat who were extremely fortunate to escape without serious harm or injury."