AN ARSONIST who repeatedly targeted a cafe and put the lives of six people at risk has been jailed at York Crown Court.

Christopher Steven Millar, 26, caused £50,000 damage to the Market Lane Tea Rooms and forced it to close for some months last Spring and Summer when he set it on fire at 1.25am, said Andrew Semple, prosecuting.

Shortly after it reopened, he again started a midnight fire at the cafe in Selby town centre.

This time he used a wheelie bin and damaged an air conditioning unit.

Arrested for both fires and released under investigation, he tried to burgle the premises and smashed one of its windows.

Then he phoned police using a false name to wrongly blame another man for the vandalism.

For Millar, Harry Crowson said he was frustrated about talk in Selby describing him as an arsonist following his arrest for the fires.

He had mild learning disabilities, low intelligence, readily followed other people’s suggestions and was easily exploited.

“You do know right from wrong,” the Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris, told Millar as he jailed him for 44 months.

He also made a restraining order banning him from contacting the cafe owner or going to several addresses linked to her.

Millar, of Carr Street, Selby, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether lives would be endangered, arson, attempted burglary and criminal damage.

He claimed he had committed the offences because he had been threatened with a knife by the man he wrongly accused of the vandalism.

The judge said police had investigated Millar’s claims without finding any proof of them, but he accepted that Millar believed he had been threatened.

Millar has a previous conviction and cautions for wasting police time and making false fire calls.

Mr Semple said six people lived in an upstairs flat next-door to the tea rooms.

The cafe owner now felt unsafe in her home as Millar knew where she lived and took precautions stop things being put through her letterbox.