A MAN who torched a lap dancing club after driving his car into the front door had attacked the premises twice before.
Faisal Qaddus was caught on CCTV smashing windows with a hammer a year before the arson last summer.
But the 27-year-old was never prosecuted for the offences after the police learned he is a paranoid schizophrenic and his family offered to pay for the damage.
The revelation came as he was jailed for four years at Swindon Crown Court for carrying out the arson at the Dream Lounge last July.
Colin Meeke, prosecuting said Peter Rogers, the club’s owner, was alone in a back office at the Regent Street premises at 7am on Saturday July 13.
“He heard the sound of tyres and a loud bang. He went downstairs and realised a car had been crashed through the front of the building and was on fire,” he said.
He managed to get out of another door and realised the fire was so strong that it could not be tackled with a fire extinguisher.
Mr Meeke said that had he not reacted when he did there was a real risk he would not have managed to get out unscathed.
He said a street cleaner working at the bottom of Victoria Road had seen a car come down the hill and then park outside the club.
It then reversed at speed into the front door, before the driver climbed out of the sun roof, doused it with petrol and set it alight.
The fire took hold very quickly and very vigorously, Mr Meeke said, and caused more than £170,000 worth of damage.
He said the car was registered to Qaddus and when officers went to his home his family said he was out and they would call when he returned.
When he was arrested his clothes were taken and found to have petrol on, and CCTV from a garage showed him buying a couple of litres of fuel in a can earlier that day.
“He was interviewed but exercised his right to silence. The only reason people could establish is he had previously damaged the club,” he said.
“He was seen on CCTV on two occasions in 2012 to get out of a car and attack windows of the premises with a hammer.
“No prosecution came of that, the police were aware he had fairly serious mental health problems. Part of the time of the investigation he was out of the country.
“The family, on his behalf, would pay for the damage and he would continue with his treatment. He did it because he said what went on in there was sinful: that is speculation.”
Qaddus, of Amber Court, Swindon, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Alex Daymond, defending, said despite his client’s problem medical experts said he did not need to be dealt with under the Mental Health Act.
Jailing him Judge Tim Mousley QC said: “I have read carefully everything about you and your background and your state of mental health.
“I have to sentence you for these offences of damaging property, arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered. It is a very serious offence.
“You suffer from a mental disorder diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia which has been susceptible to treatment.
“You suffered from that at the time of the offence but you were quite aware of what you were doing.”
Sentence is too lenient, says club boss
PETE Rogers, the owner of the Dream Lounge, has said he was aware Qaddus had targeted his club in the past, and expected him to have recieved a much harsher sentence.
“We knew he had come round last year and tried to smash the windows,” he said. “He hadset up bollards around the club and taken a hammer to the glass.
“I have never met him and only ever seen him on CCTV, so I have no idea what his issues are.
“If I have got a grievance I do not go round setting fire to things.
“I think the sentence is a bit lenient, even considering his psychological problems. The fact he ran away from the crime scene makes him culpable.
“I would have expected at least 10 years. That would have been the minimum if he was in a fit state of mind.
“But if you do something and you are not stable you do not have to accept much guilt. Now he doesn’t have to explain why he has done it.
“There is always a chance he is going to come back to us after he is released, but there is not much we can do about that.
“I am going to talk to Swindon Council about setting up some large flower buckets outside the club, and there is no way a car could get past those.
“We have got to live with it and make the best of what we have.
“We will open up again and if he has got issues and wants to come and talk to me about them he can do that. But I doubt he will.”