AN ex-banker has been jailed for four-and-a-half years over a potentially fatal petrol bomb attack on a sleeping family.
Sunderland University graduate Gareth Parkin and pal Shaun Gooch hatched a revenge plot to target the home of Carol Foster.
They partied at Parkin’s parents’ house before making the missile out of an empty sambuca bottle, toilet paper and petrol from a lawnmower.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that Parkin, 25, and Gooch, 24, concocted their plan after mistakenly believing Miss Foster’s daughter had arranged for Parkin to be beaten up.
At about 3.45am, the men arrived at the house at Birchfield, Washington, which had five people inside, including Miss Foster’s grandchild.
Gooch threw the firebomb through the upstairs window, but it failed to ignite and nobody was hurt.
Afterwards, Detective Chief Inspector John Bowery, of Northumbria Police, said: “This investigation could easily have been a murder investigation if the petrol bomb had exploded.”
Christopher Knox, prosecuting, said: “Carol Foster was asleep in the upstairs bedroom at the front of the house.
“She was woken up by a smash to the window by a sambuca bottle filled with petrol, made into a petrol bomb by putting a wick in the neck of the bottle made of toilet paper.
“It had been lit by the men, who threw the bottle.
“The bottle finished up just below the window in Carol Foster’s bed.”
The court heard that Gooch and Parkin had been outside the property for some time before launching the missile, with Parkin going off to find matches after their lighter failed.
Mr Knox added: “Parkin didn’t throw the bomb, but was clearly party to making the bomb, and was with Gooch when the final decision was made to go through with this joint enterprise.”
It was said that Parkin had been attacked by five men weeks before, and believed Miss Foster’s daughter was behind it.
Parkin, of Biddick Lane, Fatfield, and Gooch, of Alder Grove, Seaham, admitted attempted arson being reckless to whether life would be endangered, in July 2010.
Glen Gatland, defending Parkin, said he fell into the wrong crowd after his father was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Parkin was understood to have worked in banking before his arrest.
Mr Gatland said: “He is an only child and had remained at home when he was studying for his degree at Sunderland University. He had got a 2:1.
“But tragedy struck because of his father, with whom he had a very close relationship.
“He befriended a group of people who were camping in a tent on the land where he was living.
“They seemed to be people who drank, people who had relationships with many girls.
“He is very sorry for what has happened, he recognises the degrees of what could have occurred.”
Sentencing both men to four-and-a-half years imprisonment, Judge Richard Lowden, said: “This was correctly described by the prosecution as potentially a fatal attack, an offence in my view at the top end of the scale of seriousness in offences of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered or not.”