THE father of two teenage sons whose skulls were stolen from their grave was turned into a human fireball as part of a suspected traveller feud, it has been revealed.

Yesterday, Daniel McCardle – who threw a flaming rag at Sailus Price after covering him in petrol – was warned a prison sentence is inevitable.

The 71-year-old's life was only saved by his family who doused him with water from a hosepipe as flames spread through their home in Ferryhill, County Durham.

McCardle, 27, was initially charged with attempted murder but he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday to plead guilty to arson with intent to endanger life and wounding with intent.

Detective Inspector Andy Smith of Durham Constabulary told The Northern Echo: “The window was smashed with what looks like a brick and petrol poured through the broken window by McCardle.

“It is at this point Mr Price tries to stop McCardle doing what he is doing.

“Then McCardle ignites what looks like a piece of material and throws it directly at Mr Price causing the petrol he is covered in to ignite. The whole front of the house goes up.

“McCardle gets into a car and speeds off.”

A light blue Ford Mondeo used in the attack had earlier been stolen from Peterlee and was found burnt out half an hour later, at around 12.15pm on July 29, on a track off the A688 Bowburn to Sherburn bypass.

Mr Price, who suffered 30 per cent burns to his body, was taken to hospital with severe injuries.

Det Insp Smith said: “He was significantly injured. I would say his family have saved his life by pouring the water on him.

“On this occasion we are very fortunate that no-one has lost their life.”

It is understood to be part of a feud between travelling families which saw the skulls of Mr Price’s sons dug up and stolen from their grave.

Police were called to the cemetery on Bridge Street, Metal Bridge, near Ferryhill, in November 2015 following a report that a grave had been disturbed and headstone damaged.

It was the final resting place of siblings Gareth and Levi Price, who both took their own lives at the age of 16, Levi in 2001 and Gareth in 2005.

After the arson attack the family were forced to leave their Magdalene Place home.

McCardle was arrested three weeks later after police launched a major investigation.

Det Insp Smith said the exact motive was unclear but added: "This appears to be part of an ongoing feud. We believe that parties involved knew each other.

"We take these incidents very seriously and that is shown through the speed at which he was identified and charged.

“I hope that this reassures members of the community that we will do everything in our power to bring offenders to justice.”

Durham Police are keen to trace two other men they believe were in the light blue Ford Mondeo used in the attack on Mr Price and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

Det Insp Smith said: “Our investigations are continuing. It is not over.”

The case against McCardle, of Coxon Street, Hendon, Sunderland, has been adjourned until next month for the preparation of pre-sentence psychiatric reports.

Judge Paul Sloan, Recorder of Newcastle, said: “A custodial sentence is inevitable in the circumstances of this case.”