FAMILIES were left fearing for their lives after a drugged-up arsonist torched three cars on different drives in less than an hour.

David Corley admitted setting the cars alight in the early hours of October 12 after he had broken into the vehicles in Redcar.

The 31-year-old's rampage caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to property belonging to the victims, including a newly wed couple.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the defendant had no recollection of starting the fires on Oak Road and Ings Road, but accepted that he must have done following his arrest.

The Northern Echo:

Vicki Lamballe, prosecuting, said the people living in one of the houses on Oak Road were awoken a noise outside and when they looked out of the window realised their mother's car was on fire before hearing a cracking sound 'akin to an explosion'.

The fire caused damage to her Peugeot and a boat parked on the drive.

Miss Lamballe said Corley had also smashed a window and set alight a car parked on the neighbouring drive and the residents were awoken by one of their grandchildren shouting 'the car was on fire'.

In nearby Ings Road, the court heard that Corley had broken into another car and used an accelerant to set alight the Fiat. This time the family was alerted by a neighbour banging on their door.

The court heard that the damage to the first victims' property was estimated to be £20,000, while their neighbours suffered £15,000 worth of damage and the family on Ings Road were left £1,500 out of pocket.

Corley, formerly of Redcar, pleaded guilty to three charges of arson being reckless about the endangerment of life and appeared in court via a videolink to Durham Prison for sentence.

Andrew Turton, mitigating, said his client had a longstanding drug problem at the time.

He said: "He has no recollection and can't understand why he set fire to the cars after the offences took place."

Judge Paul Watson QC sentenced Corley to five years in prison for each of the offences to run concurrently.

He said: "I don't suppose that anybody will ever get to the bottom of why, on October 12, you embarked on series of offences of setting fire to motor vehicles parked very close to dwelling houses causing very substantial damage and no doubt from the footage that I have seen causing massive anxiety, fear and upset to people living in and near those houses.

"It must have been quite terrifying for them."