A heroic neighbour tackled a balaclava-wearing arsonist who torched a car in the dead of night – while a family were sleeping close by.
Brave Richard Whitehouse threw buckets of water over the flames before chasing the masked man after spotting him setting fire to the vehicle close to his Kelsall home.
On Monday, Mr Whitehouse was awarded a Crown Court Commendation by The Recorder of Chester, Judge Elgan Edwards, who praised his ‘brave, public spirited actions’.
“I am very impressed by the actions of Mr Richard Whitehouse. He behaved in an exemplary manner; not only did he stop the defendant but he apprehended him,” said Judge Edwards.
John Buck, a golf club greens keeper man, was jailed for four years for the arson attack on the driveway of a family home on Hallows Close at 2.30am on March 3.
Buck, 26, who lived at Broom Cottages at the time of the attack, smashed the window to the family car and set it alight – before texting “job done” to an unnamed female friend, in what he claimed was a revenge attack, Chester Crown Court heard.
The owners of the car, who were sleeping at the time, were only aware of the incident when they were woken by firefighters at their door.
The court heard how at about 2.30am, Mr Whitehouse was woken by the sound of breaking glass. He looked out of the window and spotted a man wearing a balaclava outside a neighbour’s house.
The masked man fled and Mr Whitehouse went back to bed – but was disturbed ten minutes later when Buck returned, smashing the car’s window and setting the vehicle alight.
While his wife phoned 999, Mr Whitehouse got dressed and went downstairs – it was then he noticed his neighbour’s car was on fire, said Peter Killen, prosecuting.
“[Buck] kept saying ‘mate, you don’t understand’. [Mr Whitehouse] dragged him down and called to neighbours for assistance.”
When police searched Buck they found a screwed-up ball of newspaper in his pocket and a lighter fell out.
And when officers examined his phone they found a message sent at 3am saying “their car is on fire, job done”, but Buck refused to name the woman he sent the message to.
Buck, who has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, drank eight pints of lager in the hours before the incident, after being badly affected by the news the mother of his unborn child had had a miscarriage.
“That such a shocking thing happens out of the blue must have been some sort of trigger,” said Paulinis Barnes, defending, who said Buck was remorseful and had been hearing voices at the time of the incident.
He pleaded guilty to arson reckless as to whether life is endangered, at an earlier hearing.
Sentencing Buck to four years in prison, Judge Edwards slated the 26-year-old for ‘boasting’ about the attack in the text message.
“What worries me is that in the course of this you sent a message to a young lady you felt had been wronged in some way,” said Judge Edwards.