Report by Karen Richards
Thursday, July 5, 2012
A BUNGLING attempt to petrol bomb his disabled neighbour with a salad cream bottle with a sock wrapped around it, is likely to land a Backwell air conditioning engineer in jail.
Robert Cole, aged 38, of Moorfield Road, was found guilty of attempting to commit arson with intent to endanger the life of Alistair Fudge, aged 31, who lives two flats away in the same road, in August last year, by a jury sitting at Bristol Crown Court on Friday.
The court heard the pair used to be best friends, calling themselves the Backwell Pirates, before Fudge, who Cole called Greybeard, revealed he was a practicing Muslim after being converted to Islam while serving a prison term for burglary.
Cole, who was known as Cider Bob, turned on him, subjecting his former friend to a tirade of anti-Muslim abuse, likening him to a Taliban terrorist and calling him a granny robber via text messages, leading to death threats and fights where police were called.
Crown prosecutor James Ward told the court Cole had been drinking all day on August 1 and had smashed up his garden with an axe before arming himself with a petrol can, going to Mr Fudge’s flat and pouring petrol through his bathroom window.
He said: “Matters took a sinister turn when the defendant was taken away by police and his neighbours, who heard a hissing sound coming from his property, went in and found a Heinz salad cream bottle three quarters full of petrol, with a wick made from a sock, on the kitchen table, armed and ready for use.”
Police forensic investigators also found a fingerprint on the bathroom window belonging to Cole.
Wheelchair-bound Mr Fudge, who can only walk 10 feet with the aid of crutches and has a daily carer following a spinal operation, said Cole kept repeating ‘one of us will die and the other will do life’ prior to the incident as well as calling him a Muslim b****** and a coward and Mr Fudge admitted he was scared of Cole.
Mr Fudge told the court he was lying down in his bedroom at about 7.20pm on August 1 when he heard a banging sound and what he thought was the sound of the old man who lived in the flat above him using the toilet but when he did not hear a flush he was suspicious and grabbing his crutches, decided to investigate.
He said: “I opened the bedroom door and went into the area outside my bathroom and immediately my feet got wet and I could smell diesel or petrol and when I opened the bathroom door nearly half an inch of petrol poured towards me.
“Through the open window I could hear the defendant give a distinctive laugh, a cackle, which sounded weird.
“I heard the sound of a lighter being struck and then anger and swearing because the sock around the molative cocktail wouldn’t light.
“I grabbed the window to look out and right in front of me I could see him trying to light the bomb so I slammed it shut and locked it.”
Neighbours who gave evidence during the trial confirmed they had seen Cole running away from Mr Fudge’s flat with a petrol can and looking ‘red-faced’ and ‘harassed’.
David Martin, defending, said Cole, who pleaded guilty to possessing an explosive substance, did not intend to use the petrol bomb but poured petrol through the window to ‘threaten’ Mr Fudge, who he claimed was more mobile than he admitted.
The judge, Recorder David Lane, adjourned the trial, asking for psychiatric and pre-sentencing reports to be completed before sentencing.