AN arsonist who set fire to a public toilet block in Warrington before telling a police officer that he tried to burn it down because ‘bad things happened there’ has been jailed.

Mark Connor, of Clapgate Crescent, Widnes, was given an 18-month sentence at Liverpool Crown Court on October 3 after setting fire to the building in Bank Park using lighter fluid on April 26 at 9.15pm.

The court heard how the 38-year-old had admitted to drinking a bottle of vodka ‘to calm his nerves’ before starting the blaze.

When police arrived a bottle of lighter fluid was seized and Connor was arrested.

At Warrington Magistrates’ Court on August 13, Connor pleaded guilty to arson and was released on bail ahead of the sentencing hearing at the crown court later this year.

But on September 2, Connor attended a police helpdesk in Widnes.

His appearance immediately raised concerns.

Charles Lander, prosecuting, said: “He was sweating profusely – so much so the police officer could see sweat through his sweater. In her opinion, he seemed paranoid and he kept telling her that he was concerned for his safety and that of his family.

“She took him into a consultation room along with another police officer.

“They asked what was concerning him.

“He said he had been telling people he was Jon Venables and he feared people were out to get him.”

The police officer added that it was clear he was suffering from a ‘paranoid episode’ as Connor is not Venables.

During this time, he admitted being in possession of a knife and a brick in a bag.

A green kitchen knife and rock were seized.

Connor was arrested and taken into custody for being in possession of a knife in a public place.

This is the second time Connor has been charged with a weapon offence.

The police were called to Ferry Street in Runcorn after a member of public became alarmed by Connor’s behaviour.

The onlooker later told police that she overheard Connor saying said ‘he was out to kill tonight’.

Connor was given a community order in February after pleading guilty to being in possession of a knife.

Desmond Lennon, defending, told the court how Connor has struggled with mental health problems.

During the arson attack, Connor called Hollins Park Hospital in Winwick, a facility that deals with people with mental health issues, where he admitted that he was struggling but declined any help.

Mr Lennon said: “It’s a troubling case because of the decline in the defendant’s mental health.”

But despite a request for a hospital order under the Mental Health Act, judge Anil Murray ruled that Connor should serve 18 months in prison following a report by psychiatric experts.