Man threatened to torch garage - unless he got beer

A MAN who threatened to set light to petrol at a Bury St Edmunds filling station because staff refused to sell him a can of beer has been jailed.

By Jon Petty

A MAN who threatened to set light to petrol at a Bury St Edmunds filling station because staff refused to sell him a can of beer has been jailed.

Andrew Willoughby, 25, had stood over fuel he spilled onto the forecourt of the Murco garage in Newmarket Road clutching a cigarette lighter, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

Yesterday, as Willoughby was sent to prison for two years the members of staff who took the nozzle from a petrol pump out of his hand were praised for their bravery.


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Mr Recorder Nigel Peters, who jailed Willoughby said that for anyone working at a petrol filling station it was the type of incident that was “very alarming” and could have had extremely serious consequences.

The court heard that on October 3 last year Willoughby, of Tayfen Road, Bury St Edmunds, had gone into the shop at the garage, which is licensed for the sale of alcohol, and tried to buy a bottle of wine. He then demanded to be given a can of beer.

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Staff refused to serve him because he appeared to be already drunk, said Robert Sadd, prosecuting.

He walked out onto the forecourt where after taking a hose from one of the petrol pumps Willoughby produced a cigarette lighter.

Willoughby had then said: “If you don't sell the beer I'll burn your pump”. After being restrained by two men working at the garage Willoughby was handed over to police officers.

Mr Sadd said that when interviewed Willoughby denied that he had intended to cause a fire and after being charged was released on bail but taken back into custody after breaking his bail conditions.

Willoughby, who has previous convictions for violence, public order offences and robbery pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening to commit criminal damage or arson.

Matthew McNiff, mitigating, said: “What he did wasn't anything other than deeply stupid. He realises that”.

At the time of the incident Willoughby had a number of issues that were troubling him and his method of coping was to take alcohol.

Sentencing Willoughby, Mr Recorder Peters said that while he accepted that starting a fire had not been his intention, it was a situation that could have potentially had “bad and disastrous consequences”.

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