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Jail for arsonists who torched car in early morning attack 

Arsonists who torched a car in a residential street have been jailed after their alibi backfired and we caught them less than two hours later smelling of petrol.

James Connolly and Sean Gillon doused two cars parked in Hall Lane, Coventry, with fuel at around 6am on 13 January 2020.

A BMW 420D was destroyed by the flames but petrol thrown over a Citroen C4 on the same driveway failed to ignite.

Arsonists Connolly (left) and Gillon
Arsonists Connolly (left) and Gillon

Shortly after 29-year-old Connolly from Pangbourne Road, Henley Green called us claiming his Toyota Auris had been stolen overnight.

However, by that stage we’d already spoken to a witness who described men matching the pair’s description smashing up a Toyota in nearby Blackshaw Drive. And our officers also found the vehicle’s car keys dropped at the scene of the arson.

Gillon, aged 30 from Petitor Crescent, was also at the address and both men smelt of fuel.

We found a black bag containing a notebook, lighter and glass fragments in a bedroom, a pair of gloves smelling of petrol were found in Gillon’s jacket pocket and glass fragments were discovered in Connolly’s jeans pocket. 

Detectives sourced CCTV showing the men filling up petrol canisters at a garage forecourt shortly before the attack, plus more footage of them walking to and fleeing from the scene.

They went on to admit arson and attempted arson, with Connelly pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice in relation to his bogus car theft claim.

And on Monday (22 June) at Warwick Crown Court Connolly was jailed for 40 months – including seven months for perverting the course of justice – while Gillon imprisoned for 27 months.  

Detective Constable Mike Bray, said: “Connolly tried to fabricate an alibi by claiming his car had been stolen − but it simply led our officers to his home where there was a smell of fuel and we uncovered crucial evidence.

The burnt-out BMW attacked by the pair
The burnt-out BMW attacked by the pair

“Both men initially denied being involved but quickly changed their minds when we presented them with CCTV showing them filling up petrol cans. 

“The motive remains uncertain but we are clear this was a targeted attack; both offenders were drunk at the time. 

“This was a reckless act that could have had dire consequences had the flames spread to buildings. It’s right that both men have been jailed and this should act as a warning to anyone else who starts fires deliberately, they may well end up in prison."

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