TWO friends who got revenge on a man by setting his house on fire, forcing him to jump from an upstairs window to escape, have been jailed.

Preston Crown Court heard Lewis Clough and Thomas Bank threw petrol at the front door of Richard Millar’s flat on Rothesay Road in Blackburn and lit it.

The incident, at around 6.20am on Thursday, November 21, left Mr Millar unable to exit his property via the external stairs, resulting in him escaping through his front window after he threw his dog out first. It ended up causing £50,000-worth of damage

The fire was so fierce that it also caused severe damage to the flat below, waking Linda Taylor and her son Keith Brunt in the process.

Clough and Bank pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life.

Prosecutor David Farley told the court how four days before the attack, Clough had been in a fight with Mr Millar, which had left him with a stab wound to his back that he glued together himself. The arson attack was carried out as revenge for the stabbing.

Mr Farley said: “The two defendants had been drinking on the night before the incident at Julie Lightbown’s house on Moorland Avenue.

“They then called a taxi to take them to Rothesay Road, and are spotted on CCTV making their way up to Mr Millar’s front door, which was accessed by a set of stone steps.

“CCTV footage then shows a flash of fire and just moments later the defendants can be seen running from the scene.

“Mr Millar was making a cup of tea and heard two loud bangs from the front door before he is seen throwing his dog out of the window and then jumping out himself.

“They then call another taxi to take them back to Moorland Avenue, and the driver said he could smell petrol on the two men.”

The court heard that for some unknown reason, on returning to Moorland Avenue, Clough viciously assaulted Bank, who was taken to hospital, before the police were called and Bank made a confession.

He was arrested in hospital with Clough arrested later that day.

Mr Farley added: “Both Mrs Taylor and Mr Brunt have been severely impacted by the incident, although not directly involved themselves, with Mr Millar being left unable to work.

“The estimated damage to the properties is around £50,000.”

Defending Clough, 33, Mark Stephenson said his client was not of sound mind when he committed the attack, telling the court he had been sectioned twice in the months before, following the death of his father.

Mr Stephenson said it was his view that Clough, who had also been drinking prior to the incident, should not have been released from the mental health unit as early as he was, but failings in the system had allowed him to ‘slip through the net’.

In mitigation for Bank, Daniel Prowse said the 25-year-old had been ‘bullied’, ‘dominated’ ‘manipulated’, and ‘controlled’ by the older defendant.

Mr Prowse said: “The taxi driver who took them back to Miss Lightbown’s address said Bank had been holding his head in his hands, as if realising the severity of his actions.

“The incident afterwards was a separate issue but is illustrative of the type of relationship he had with his co-defendant.”

Sentencing, Judge Philip Parry said: “You, Clough, decided you would revisit Mr Millar and exact your revenge on him. You, Bank, said you would go with him. The offence was committed by you in drink and you used an accelerant and endangered the lives of three people."

Clough, of Clarence Street, Darwen, who was out on licence when he committed the offence, and has numerous convictions for more than 20 offences, was sentenced to six years in prison with an extra two-and-a-half years on extended licence.

Bank, of Hilton Road, Darwen, who also has several previous convictions, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.

Det Insp Andy Horne said: “We welcome the sentences which reflect the gravity of what were really serious offences – risking the lives of not only their target but the vulnerable and elderly lady who lived below.

“Det Con Craig Atkinson carried out a diligent investigation to bring these two offenders to justice at the same time as providing excellent support to the victim and all at a time of huge challenge with Covid-19.”