A FATHER-OF-TWO who tried to steal a car so he could kill himself with its exhaust fumes, left it ablaze in the narrow street when failed to get it started, a court heard today.

Ian McCallum, who took the car's radio cassette player, some tapes and sunglasses, pleaded guilty to arson and theft and was sent to prison for three months by Harrogate magistrates.

Court chairman Jim Fender told McCallum, 27, he had been reckless in his actions and had failed to respond to other sentencing measures in the past, so only a jail term was appropriate.

Prosecutor Peter Scott said Ella Hodgson had parked her Vauxhall Nova outside her home in Newby Street, Ripon, on October 4.

When she went outside later to investigate a commotion she found smoke coming from it and a glow in the interior.

She feared the car would explode because the petrol tank was full, but neighbours called the fire brigade who were quickly on the scene.

In mitigation Simon Crosfield said McCallum, of Neasham Road, Darlington, realised he had put his liberty at risk because the arson had taken place in a narrow street and 'one shudders to think of the consequences if the car had exploded.'

But McCallum hoped the court would show mercy so he could be helped with his mental problems, which had led him to take the car to use its exhaust gases to end his life and also to make another suicide bid whilst awaiting sentence.

"With the best will in the world, one wonders what effect a prison sentence might have on his personality," said Mr Crosfield.

McCallum had formed a new relationship with a woman who ran a Darlington guest house after splitting with the mother of his two children.

He was now trying to overcome a recent addiction to heroin.