TERRIFIED shop assistants looked on his horror as a customer soaked himself in petrol and flicked the ignition on his lighter.
Laura Longstaff was working in Cash in a Flash in Holmeside, Sunderland, when the dramatic stand-off took place.
Ryan Haley poured petrol from a jerry can he was carrying over himself and the floor, splashing a customer with the highly-flammable liquid, after a row with staff.
A judge at Newcastle Crown Court said it was a “miracle” no blaze took hold.
Laura, 27, who has worked at the store for five years, said: “All I heard was a load of screaming and shouting from down the back and I could smell a load of petrol.
“Everyone was saying ‘just get him out and shut the doors’.
“I could see him down the back and he looked a little bit wet, where he had poured it over himself.”
Laura said it was not until later she realised how close Haley had come to setting himself alight.
Luckily, no fire took hold during the shocking incident, which took place in front of three staff and six customers.
“I never saw him flicking the lighter until I looked on the camera,” added Laura, from South Shields.
“I was just trying to calm him down. I was absolutely terrified. I don’t want to go through it again.”
Haley, of Oaklands Crescent, Marley Pots, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to affray.
Judge Roger Thorn QC told him: “This is a deeply disturbing case.
“Only by a miracle, it seems to me, did the lighter not set fire to the petrol, or accidentally set fire to someone else.”
Haley was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision and compulsory mental health treatment.
The 35-year-old has been banned by the court from going to the shop for the next two years.
The judge said Haley has psychiatric problems and told him: “You are a person more ill than criminal.”
Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court Haley had been a regular customer, but trouble started on August 13 when he was told his account had been frozen.
He warned them “I will just burn the shop down” and returned carrying the jerry can about 40 minutes later.
Haley told police he had only intended to harm himself and meant no injury or damage to anyone else.
Jamie Adams, defending, said: “If he did not realise the seriousness of what he was doing at the time of doing it, he certainly has been made to realise it now.”