AN ALCOHOLIC who drank 100 pints a week set fire to a Sheffield bookies in fury after a gaming machine failed to pay out.
Jeffrey Bainbridge was jailed for five years by a judge at Sheffield Crown Court after he heard the 49-year-old poured a can of petrol over the counter and set it alight as terrified staff and customers fled the shop on City Road, Manor.
The court heard Bainbridge was convinced he’d landed a £180 jackpot but when the machine did not pay out he accused staff at Bob Holmes Bookmakers of cheating him.
Bainbridge, who had a ‘massively high’ alcohol consumption and had reduced his drinking to around 100 pints a week, stormed off in a rage.
He returned with a can of petrol and set fire to the counter area of the bookmakers causing £100,000 of damage.
Staff and customers fled while Humphrey Hopkins, who lived in a flat above, felt the floor shaking, saw the commotion and rushed outside.
The blaze took hold and three fire engines were called out to put out the flames.
Bainbridge, who has no previous convictions, admitted reckless arson and endangering the lives of staff Nicola Holmes and Michelle Davis.
Tim Savage, defending, said: “This was a display, a demonstration.
“He wanted to put the shop out of business for a time and cause financial hardship.”
Brian Outhwaite, prosecuting, said Bainbridge began shouting and swearing at one of the gaming machines because he was losing money.
He lost his temper, punched and kicked the machine and accused the staff of ‘doctoring’ it to stop it paying out.
When asked to leave he shouted: “You will not be at work tomorrow because this shop won’t be here.”
Nicola Holmes, 46, whose brother manages the family business, was in fear for her life because she was trapped behind the counter.
She and her colleague fled with other punters.
Witnesses said the flames reached the ceiling and they saw thick, black smoke funnelling outside.
Bainbridge was arrested at his home on Arbourthorne Road and told police: “I know what I have done. It was stupid.”
He said he had left the petrol can on the counter and it went ‘woof’.
Mr Savage said Bainbridge was ‘incensed’ at his treatment.
“He is convinced to this day that he had been cheated and he was angry.
“It was an act of pre-meditated revenge. The damage was extensive and it must have been frightening for those in the shop.”
He said Bainbridge lived a relatively quiet life and had worked as a physiotherapist before becoming a plumber.
Mr Savage said he lived with a partner who had helped curb his ‘massively high’ alcohol consumption and his gambling addiction.
He had now voluntarily excluded himself from all the bookies in the area.
Jailing him for five years, Mr Justice Davis told Bainbridge it was a serious matter and he had put members of the public and staff at risk.
He said: “The staff were petrified and it was pure luck the fire was kept under control.”