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30th Jun, 2022

Neighbours' dispute saw petrol bomb hurled at couple's home as they were asleep

Editorial Correspondent 25th Jun, 2019 Updated: 25th Jun, 2019

A HEATED neighbours’ dispute saw a petrol bomb hurled at a couple’s home as they were asleep upstairs.

Fortunately they were woken by the noise outside and, as the fire brigade was called, they managed to get out of the burning house and saved one of their cars from the flames.

The petrol bomb attacker was their next-door neighbour James Banning, who had a long-standing grudge over a complaint made against him to the local council, a jury heard.

Banning, 36, of Hall Close, Stoneleigh, pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to charges of conspiracy to commit arson and arson with intent to endanger life.

The jury acquitted him of both of those charges – but found him guilty of an alternative offence of arson being reckless whether life was endangered.

Remanding Banning, who was also convicted of harassment, in custody for a pre-sentence report, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC said he was facing ‘a very significant custodial sentence indeed.’

A second man in the dock, Richard Eykyn, 46, of Milton Avenue, Warwick, walked free after the jury cleared him of the conspiracy charge, which he had also denied.

Prosecutor Graeme Simpson explained Banning and his family had been neighbours of a couple for a number of years, but in April last year the woman reported him to Warwick District Council for noise nuisance, which he found out about.

She then began receiving threatening calls on her phone and found the windows of her car and her partner’s car and the kitchen window had been smashed.

In September, after she had reported him to the police and he was on bail, Banning went past her house and shouted at her: “I’m going to kill you.”

She saw graffiti on a nearby bridge describing her as ‘a grass’ and posters of her which had been put up around the village.

CCTV footage which survived the blaze outside the couple’s council house showed Banning approaching the property on September 30 from the nearby village hall car park. He was carrying something that was burning and dripping burning liquid onto the road.

In his other hand he had a hammer with which he tried to smash the windows of his neigbours’ car, without success.

“He then, with some force, threw the burning object directly at the front of the house and then fled back to the car park and left in a car,” said Mr Simpson.

Banning denied making any of the threatening calls made on a pay-as-you go ‘burner phone,’ but it was established that he had made the top-up payments for it.

He also denied carrying out the arson attack, claiming the couple were trying to pin it on him because of their feud.

But the couple told the jury that although they could not see the face of the petrol bomber, they recognised him from having been neighbours for so many years, and the woman recognised the scarf he was wearing.

The court heard Eykyn had been with Banning that night, but he denied being involved in a plan to petrol-bomb the car.

Following the jury’s verdicts, Banning’s barrister Rashad Mohammed acknowledged: “He recognises a prison sentence awaits him of some length.”

But Judge Lockhart said he wanted a report to be prepared on Banning to consider the danger he poses in the future.

He said: “This is a man who embarked on a campaign of abuse. This is a fire bomb attack on someone out of vindictiveness.”

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