A BURGLAR and arsonist was caught after returning to watch the fire he had started.
Attempting to destroy the evidence of his earlier break-in, Merlin Quinnan, of The Pathway Fields, Hayle, set fire to a garage and Volkswagen van causing about £6,000 damage, Truro Crown Court heard on Friday.
The 22-year-old broke into the garage in a yard behind Sea View Terrace in Redruth on July 30 last year, stealing a tool box and other items.
Philip Lee, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “He had gone to the garage knowing it was insecure intending to look for items to steal.”
The building and a Volkswagen van inside the building belonged to Jason Gartrell.
Mr Lee said Quinnan returned to the property twice that night – first time to steal more property and then to set fire to the premises to destroy evidence such as fingerprints.
He then went home again before returning to the area to watch the fire, Mr Lee said, when he was picked up by police.
Mr Lee added: “There was significant asbestos contamination of the surrounding area which had to be cleaned.”
The van was valued at about £3,000 and was not insured and Mr Gartrell had paid £3,000 to clean up.
In a victim statement read out in court, Mr Gartrell described feeling significant stress as a result of the incident and deciding to sell the property at a loss.
Four people were arrested over the incident and two accepted cautions.
Quinnan pleaded guilty to burglary and arson at a previous hearing.
The court heard his numerous previous convictions included criminal damage and stealing a rabbit and a guinea pig.
In September last year Quinnan woke up to find the animals in his room with no recollection of how they got there. He sold them on Facebook for £10.
Paul Gallagher, defending, said Quinnan had committed a “flurry” of offences in a short space of time last summer, including some bizarre behaviour.
He said: “He said basically he was drinking far too much, he was taking drugs, and from the sounds of it, whatever he could get his hands on, and also he was suffering from mental health problems.”
Mr Gallagher said Quinnan had since stopped drinking and taking drugs and was looking for work.
Judge Christopher Harvey Clark, QC, sentenced him to 16 months in prison.