Man jailed for dousing ex-girlfriend with petrol as she slept in her Sunderland home

Michael Webster was jailed for dousing his ex-girlfriend in petrol while she slept.
Michael Webster was jailed for dousing his ex-girlfriend in petrol while she slept.

A man who doused his ex-girlfriend and her home with petrol - sparking a three-hour stand-off with police - has been jailed

Michael Webster told the woman "wake up, I've covered the house in petrol" as she lay asleep at her Sunderland home in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Michael Webster was sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court

Michael Webster was sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 47-year-old, who had hidden the victim's phone, even smoked a cigarette as he poured the flammable liquid in every room.

The victim managed to ring for help when she found an old mobile belonging to her son, which had just one per cent of its battery power left.

Police evacuated neighbours and put a 50-metre exclusion zone around the property at Leechmere Road, Sunderland, before officers stormed the house with riot shields and arrested Webster, who said he wanted to kill himself by setting the place on fire.

Webster, who had been staying at the victim's home, but is originally from Wooler Crescent, Billingham, Teesside, pleaded guilty to two charges of threatening to damage property and one of causing damage to property.

The court heard Webster's first wife died tragically during an operation in 2013, and a second marriage lasted just a month. He met the woman on a dating site in 2015.

Their relationship broke down at Christmas last year, but Webster - who had never been in trouble before - was allowed to stay at the woman's two-bedroom semi until he found somewhere else to stay.

It was in the early hours of New Year’s Day that the woman was woken with the chilling words about her home being soaked in petrol.

Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw told the court: "She was still half asleep but realised her legs were wet. The duvet was wet. The defendant had poured petrol over the duvet and bed in which she was sleeping.

"He told her not to go looking for phones and said 'you can't contact anyone, I've taken them'."

The court heard Webster told her "There's nothing for me any more," as he continued pouring the petrol around the house.

Mr Wardlaw added: "While doing this, he lit a cigarette. The woman managed to locate an old telephone which belonged to her son, which had one per cent battery life left on it, and was able to make an emergency call to the police."

He said the woman was released from the house ,but the "stand-off" with police - who were forced to evacuate neighbours and set up an exclusion zone - lasted three hours.

Mr Wardlaw said the victim was left panicked and added: "She was concerned if she had not found the mobile phone of her son's, she may not have been around to have made a statement."

Mr Recorder Toby Hedworth QC said he was satisfied Webster wanted to harm just himself that night.

He added; "The reality is, here is a woman who has difficulty coping with the fact she placed her trust in a man who then placed her and her son in such great danger, and placed other people in great danger."

The judge said Webster's behaviour was "obviously dangerous" and that the woman must have been "terrified".

He said while Webster poses a low risk of re-offending, a deterrent sentence must be passed, and gave him 20 months behind bars.

Peter Schofield, defending, said Webster had struggled to cope with tragedy in his life and now wants to make a "full apology" for what he did.

Mr Schofield said Webster, who was not usually a drinker, had had alcohol that night and his "sole thinking" was to end his own life.