A MAN torched the car of a neighbour with whom he had been in a feud, but it took more than four years for him to answer for the crime.

Lee Owens, who had drunk three litres of cider with a friend visiting his home, produced a petrol can and a rag, declaring: “I’m going to teach that smarmy b******.”

Durham Crown Court heard he went outside and took two attempts to set light to the Ford Focus, belonging to his neighbour, parked in Cedar Crescent, Willington.

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said he told his friend to keep quiet about it, but as the flames took hold, they both appeared to find it amusing.

By the time emergency services arrived Owens had removed clothing and claimed to have just woken.

He queried if his neighbour was blaming him but believed he would not be considered responsible as he, himself, had his own car burned out previously and thought suspicion would fall on whoever committed that.

The court heard the incident took place on February 18, 2015, since when Owens has boasted about getting away with it, as, having been arrested, there was insufficient evidence to counter his alibi and no further action was taken.

But Miss Atkinson said a recording of him admitting the attack was passed to police, last December.

Owens, 43, now of Murchison Street, Scarborough, admitted arson being reckless as to whether property was damaged at a hearing on July 31, since when he has been remanded in custody.

The court heard his 18 previous convictions for 29 offences include another arson attack committed in drink, starting a fire at the rear of an ex-partner’s home, for which he was jailed for 30 months in 2006.

Amrit Jandoo, for Owens, said the arson was committed, “against the backdrop of a bitter feud” with the defendant’s former neighbour.

“Looking back he knows it was a traumatic incident for the neighbour.”

Judge Jonathan Carroll imposed a 27-month prison sentence and put in place a five-year restraining order preventing Owens from contacting his ex-neighbour.