A "mad and dangerous" man who drunkenly left a lit Molotov cocktail on a garage forecourt which could have caused "mass carnage" has been jailed.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told Paul Crick, who had been living in his wheelchair bound mother's garden shed until she threw him out, staggered drunkenly into the Tesco petrol station in Sewardstone Road, Waltham Abbey, at 5.30pm on Saturday 22 April this year clutching a bottle containing meths and paraffin.

He then put it near fire extinguishers and a sand box on the forecourt, lit a rag he had plugged the top with and set fire to it.

Then, as he stumbled away staff rushed to put it out and averted what a lawyer said could have been "mass carnage".

Crick, of no fixed address, later told police it was his "special mixture".

Today (Thursday, November 11), Judge David Turner QC jailed Crick for three years and ten months.

Crick had pleaded not guilty but was convicted by a jury earlier of attempted arson with intent or being reckless as to endanger life and to possessing an article with intent to destroy property

He claimed he didn't remember doing it but if he had he hadn't intended to.

Branding what Crick had done as “mad, dangerous and insane” Judge Turner said the potential consequences of what Crick had done "doesn't bear thinking about".

He continued : "It was a Molotov cocktail. You lit it on the forecourt of a filling station with all the potential danger that implied for members of the public, staff and shoppers.

"It was an insane thing to do."

He added: "On one hand you did something obviously mad and dangerous, but on the other hand you were seriously affected by drink and in a state of considerable personal despair."

The court heard that Crick, addicted for decades to drink and drugs, had been living rough in a nearby park since his mother threw him out because of his demanding behaviour and relentless requests for money for drink.

It was said he was "hopeless rather than angry", felt lonely and rejected and that the attempted arson was a cry for help.

He has psychological and behavioural disturbances but there was no rehabilitation programmes available in the community for him, said the judge.

Judge Turner called Crick's criminal record of 87 convictions for 190 offences shocking and described him as "a deeply anti-social nuisance" who lived an itinerant lifestyle.

He added : "What you did was an act of grave recklessness. Fire setting is always serious but to do it on the forecourt of a filling station was particularly serious. It's to the very great credit of the staff who were vigilant that literally within seconds this device was extinguished. There was no damage beyond a little bit of scorching to the floor."

Mitigating, Peter Hunter said Crick was single, unemployed and homeless at the time and this was a cry for help "rather than a deliberate attempt to cause mass carnage if it had taken place".

During his seven months on remand in prison without drinking Crick had dried out and was on medication for his heroin dependency and epilepsy.