'I could have been killed' – Burnley bar owner describes night his building was targeted by arsonist
James Gibb, who owns Illuminati, was asleep in his flat above the Hammerton Street bar when he heard a noise in the early hours of the morning on November 20th, 2019.
He raced to his bathroom window to look outside, and saw a figure in a boiler suit with their face covered, holding a duffle bag, running from the premises.
James (30) immediately got dressed, called the police, and gave chase. They managed to apprehend the culprit an hour later as he attempted to escape down a back alley in the town centre.
The bag he was carrying contained an angle grinder and four petrol cans.
Jordan Schofield (22), of Compston Avenue, Rossendale, was arrested and subsequently charged with setting fire to Mac's Bar, located across from Illuminati. An incident that had taken place two months earlier.
Last week, he was convicted of arson and attempted arson, at Preston Crown Court, and sentenced to 47 months in jail.
James said he dreads to think what could have happened if he hadn't disturbed Schofield that night.
"If I hadn't woken up then there is a very good chance me and my girlfriend would have been killed," he said. "It was the angle grinder that woke me up. I felt the vibrations through the building, and knew there was someone trying to get into the bar.
"The amount of alcohol we have downstairs; if that had been set alight it would have exploded. At that point I really don't know how we would have managed to get out.
"When I saw him through the window, he was wearing a big boiler suit, with big gloves, and his face was covered. It was a pretty scary sight.
"I remembered the incident from Mac's a couple of months earlier. I'd been working at Carnivoro next door, and the police had asked me if we had any CCTV. We actually went to Illuminati, and our CCTV had caught him breaking into Mac's.
"On the night [two months later] outside Illuminati, I knew it was the same guy just from what he was wearing, so I put on some clothes and chased him.
"I was talking to the police as I was running after him. I caught up with him but he made off down a back alley. The police got there pretty much straight away, and so we searched for him together. Eventually he set off a security light."
James attended the sentencing at Burnley Crown Court, and said he was disappointed with what he felt was a lenient sentence handed out to Schofield.
"I do feel a bit sorry for him because I don't believe he acted alone. But this could have been so much worse.
"After we found the petrol can, and I got back to the flat, it really began to sink in just how bad it could have been.
"For months after, my girlfriend struggled to sleep. And even now, as soon as I hear the slightest noise, I'm awake thinking somebody is breaking into the bar.
"If he had managed to get into the bar then who knows what would have happened. Thankfully, he didn't."