A man who pushed a small lighted petrol bomb through the letter box of a North Wales house while a couple slept upstairs has been jailed for four years.

Mold Crown Court heard it was a mystery why Rhyl man Mark Douthwaite, 55, had done it because he did not know the victims.

Luckily they heard the letter box make a noise in the early hours of the morning and went to investigate.

They found the fire and were able to put it out with water.

Douthwaite, of Pendyffryn Road, denied arson but was convicted.

He was cleared of a more serious charge of arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

The defendant, who had a long history of mental illness, was told by Judge David Hale that he had coped so well for a number of years with his disability and unfortunate illness.

He had never before ever committed a criminal offence.

“But the evidence I am afraid is overwhelming that you had made this implement,” said the judge who variously described it as a Molotov Cocktail or small petrol bomb.

It was a small bottle with lighter fluid inside and a wick which had been lit and put through the letter box of a neighbour’s house.

The jury had accepted that he had not been reckless in endangering life and there was no evidence or any dislike of the house or the occupants. There was no evidence that he knew them.

“But it was quite a deliberate act on your part,” the judge told him.

It all happened against the background of the illness that he had.

“Any fire of course carries with it great risk,” Judge Hale said.

He was troubled by what the defendant had done.

Prosecuting barrister Jonathan Austin said that in the early hours of March 2 Jason and Victoria Field were in bed when they heard a letter box noise and he went to investigate.

As he went downstairs he saw a fire in the porch which took two kettles of water to put out.

His wife looked out and saw a figure running away.

She gave police a description and officers arrested Douthwaite in the street because he matched the description. He was said to be confused and agitated.

It was 3am and they found that a small bottle containing a rag and some lighter fuel had been set on fire and pushed through the letter box.

He was carrying matches, two cigarette lighters and a packet of Carlton Red king sized cigarettes.

The cloth in the bottle was of a distinctive spotty material which matched material found at the defendant’s own room.

There were a number of small whisky bottles in the room, his DNA was found on a Carlton Red cigarette stub outside the attacked house, and CCTV showed him purchasing cigarettes at a nearby garage a few moments earlier.

Douthwaite said he went for a walk, bought the cigarettes at the garage and was simply arrested as he made his way home. The fire was nothing to do with him. “I didn’t do it,” he said.

Sarah Yates, defending, said that it was the defendant’s case that he was not responsible.

He was a man of no previous convictions who had a lengthy history of mental health difficulties.

The defendant had been in custody for five months which was the equivalent of a ten month sentence.

He had no grudge against anyone in the house, she said.

The defendant co-operated with the mental health services and she suggested that he could be managed in the community.

But Judge Hale said that his difficulty. While he had co-operated with the authorities he had in the early hours deliberately made a small petrol bomb which he lit and put through the letter box of a stranger’s home. “It was a dangerous thing to do,” he said.