THIS was the dramatic scene as arsonists destroyed a car in a late-night attack in York.

Vandals struck in the early hours of yesterday, destroying a Vauxhall Astra and also a Renault Clio. This picture, taken by a local resident, shows the Astra in flames in Wentworth Road, South Bank.

Police branded the vandals “mindless and stupid”.

The Clio’s owner, 47-year-old John Paul O’Connell, told The Press he was “absolutely gutted” at the destruction of his car, which was set alight at about 1am in Albermarle Road – only moments after he had seen the Astra in flames.

North Yorkshire Police condemned the arsonists, saying they put lives at risk, and are investigating.

Because the attacks were simultaneous, two separate crews of firefighters had to be called out. The burned-out cars were still standing in the streets yesterday.

“I’m completely shocked by what has happened. I just can’t believe it,” said Mr O'Connell, who has lived in South Bank for about two years and bought the Clio last year.

“We don’t usually get a lot of trouble or crime around here, so it's really strange for something like this to happen. I need my car to get about and I’d just had a new exhaust fitted, but now it's completely destroyed.

“I live on Wentworth Road, where the Astra was set on fire, and I heard a loud bang at about 1am, looked out of the window and saw it. My first thought was ‘what a thing to happen’, then the police arrived at my home and told me my car had also been attacked where I had parked it for the night. I just think whoever did this is scum.”

One Albermarle Road resident, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s really shocking and upsetting when you see cars burnt out because it’s such a rare thing to happen, not just in South Bank, but anywhere in York.

“I feel so sorry for their owners.

It's a horrible thing to happen at any time, but it’s even worse at Christmas.”

A police spokeswoman said a Volvo C30 in Wentworth Road was also damaged in the attacks, and said: “This was a completely mindless and stupid act.

“Not only could the suspects have been seriously injured themselves, they put many other lives in danger, including those of the emergency services and other victims who may genuinely have needed their assistance."

In an unrelated incident, a Land Rover Freelander in the Newby area of Scarborough was damaged at about 8.45pm on Boxing Day, when vandals smashed a window and threw a firework into the car.

Anybody with information on any of the attacks is asked to phone 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.