A DISGRUNTLED punter has been jailed for five years after starting a £100,000 blaze at a Sheffield bookmakers when a gaming machine would not pay out.
Jeffrey Bainbridge, 49, was convinced he had landed a £180 jackpot, but the machine didn’t pay up and he accused the staff of cheating him.
He then stormed off in a rage and returned from his nearby home with a can of petrol, before setting fire to the counter area as terrified staff and customers fled.
A man living in a flat above the premises in City Road had a lucky escape as the blaze took hold.
Sheffield Crown Court heard that Bainbridge, of Arbourthorne Road, had at the time reduced his drinking to 100 pints a week.
He admitted reckless arson and endangering the lives of Bob Holmes Bookmakers staff Nicola Holmes and Michelle Davis.
Bainbridge’s barrister Tim Savage said: “This was a display, a demonstration. He wanted to put the shop out of business for a time and cause them financial hardship.”
Brian Outhwaite, prosecuting, said Bainbridge began shouting and swearing at one of the gaming machines before accusing staff of “doctoring” the machine.
When he was asked to leave by the two female staff he shouted: “You will not be at work tomorrow because this shop won’t be here.”
He stormed off but returned about two hours later and poured petrol over the counter, some paperwork and computer equipment.
Ms Holmes, 46, whose brother manages the family business, was “extremely fearful for her life”, said Mr Outhwaite.
Mr Savage said Bainbridge had now voluntarily excluded himself from all local bookmakers’.
Jailing him for five years, Mr Justice Davis told Bainbridge: “The staff were petrified and it was pure luck the fire was kept under control.”