A STUDENT teacher has been locked up for six years after he admitted trying to set fire to his girlfriend’s home in Chester.

Connor Egan, 20, pushed flaming wheelie bins up against the door of the student house on Lorne Street in the Garden Quarter on two occasions in May last year.

Chester Crown Court heard on Monday (January 7) that his relationship with Phoebe Alton had been winding down – but he was keen to rekindle the romance.

He hoped she would seek comfort with him, not knowing he was the one that started the fires.

The court heard that Egan has no previous convictions but Judge Steven Everett said arson must be dealt with extremely severely as it could easily lead to death.

He told Egan – who remained impassive in the dock - that if the fire had spread along the terraced street and someone had died he would be facing a life sentence for murder.

“This could have caused so much devastation to property as well, of course, as the real risk of life being lost,” the judge said.

“Fire is such a difficult thing to control once it takes hold and that is why sentences for arson are substantial.”

The court heard Egan has now been thrown off his course at the University of Chester and will not be able to pursue his chosen career as a primary school teacher.

Outlining the case, prosecuting barrister Maria Masselis said the defendant and Miss Alton had begun a relationship in October 2017.

However, it became “increasingly on/off” after Christmas despite Egan’s attempts to make it more serious.

On the evening of May 25, Miss Alton was on a night out and did not return home until 3am the next morning. Unaware of this, Egan had twice gone to her student property to set a wheelie bin on fire.

On the first occasion, one of her housemates had been woken at around 1am to see flames three feet high coming from the bin that was placed two metres from the house.

The fire service was called to extinguish it – but two hours later they were back as Egan had set the bin on fire again and pushed it against the front door.

Flames were said to be “creeping up the building” leaving housemates scared about why they were being targeted.

Police were called and firefighters blocked the letter box to prevent anyone posting flaming material into the property.

Just three days later, on May 29, Miss Alton and her housemates were woken by the smoke alarm at 4am. A bin had once again been pushed against the front door and set alight.

They also heard a crackling sound from the rear of the house and discovered a burning bin bag outside the back door. Firefighters were called to extinguish the flames.

Suspicions were raised about Egan’s involvement, but when Miss Alton called him he assured her he was not behind the fires.

However, witnesses had seen a man leaving the scene and police officers found clothes at his address that matched the description.

They also checked his phone and discovered he was “active” at the time of the fires rather than asleep, as he had claimed.

He was arrested on May 29 and denied any involvement in interview. But he later pleaded guilty to two counts of ‘simple arson’ and two of arson being ‘reckless’ as to whether life was endangered.

Peter Barnett, defending, told the court it was a sad case of a young man who was 19 at the time of the offence.

“He clearly acted out of a lack of maturity, unable to accept the end of a relationship,” he said. “This was not a revenge attack; it was to gain her affections.”

Egan, of Butt Lane, Beverley, Yorkshire, was sentenced to six years detention, half of which he will spend in custody and half on licence.

He was also made the subject of a restraining order banning him from contacting Miss Alton.

Judge Everett told him: “It gives me no pleasure to see a young man throw his life away as you have. Only time will tell if you can rebuild it when you are released.”