An arsonist who set fire to a takeaway restaurant and a car in Letchworth has been jailed for four-and-a-half years today.

Homeless Amal Perera, 37, caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the USA Fried Chicken shop in Station Road and a Ford S-Max.

He now faces deportation back to Sri Lanka, St Albans Crown Court was told.

Perera, who became an alcoholic after his marriage broke down, stole a reflective jacket from JD Wetherspoon in the town on the night of October 10, 2022.

In the early hours of the following morning, he was seen on CCTV wearing the hi-vis jacket in Station Road, where he placed cardboard against the silver S-Max and set it alight. The car, which belonged to a nurse, was a write-off.

He next set fire to objects outside the ground floor of the USA Fried Chicken shop, causing £145,000 damage. Six people who were living upstairs had to be rehoused.

Perera, of no fixed address, appeared for sentencing via a video link from Wormwood Scrubs prison, having been convicted of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at the chicken shop, arson of the car and theft of the jacket.

The Comet: The arson attack caused £145,000 damage to USA Fried Chicken in Letchworth.The arson attack caused £145,000 damage to USA Fried Chicken in Letchworth. (Image: Google Maps)

Prosecutor Robin Griffiths said Perera, who was an overstayer in the UK, will be eligible to be considered for early deportation 18 months before the expiry of his sentence.

Andrew Corcut, defending, said Perera suffered serious alcohol problems following the breakdown of his marriage, which led to the loss of his accommodation.

"He was overwhelmed by the loss of his marriage and tried to cope with alcohol," he said.

He said Perera still maintains his innocence. "He is adamant he did not do it," said Mr Corcut.

Sentencing him, Judge Francis Sheridan said he had caused an "appalling fire". The judge said Perera’s life had "spiralled down because he had become alcohol ridden and homeless."

He said there was no reason that he should not be deported and it was in his best interests to be returned to his home country.