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‘Courageous’ till worker tackled man who set fire to petrol station forecourt


A “courageous and brave” till worker tackled a man who almost blew up a petrol station.

At 4.26am on April 15 last year Lahrne Dobbs, of Oakley Way, Caldicot, approached the BP garage in Caldicot Road in Rogiet and demanded cigarettes, Cardiff Crown Court heard on Monday.

The petrol station was only operating through a night pay window at the time and Pana Paul – the only worker in the building then – agreed to sell the cigarettes to Dobbs to calm him down. But Dobbs wanted to enter the shop and wouldn’t listen to Mr Paul’s instructions.

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The court heard how there was a “disagreement” in how Dobbs would pay for the cigarettes.

Owen Williams, prosecuting, told the court how Dobbs, 32 and a father of four, “refused to place money on the counter” at the pay window before he then became angry.

In a desperate attempt to appease Dobbs Mr Paul gave the defendant one of his own cigarettes and the court heard how the situation briefly calmed.

But then Dobbs picked up an advertisement sign and placed it in the centre of the main road causing a significant danger to motorists.

“Mr Paul then used the Tannoy system to instruct Mr Dobbs to return the sign,” Mr Williams said.

“He then returned to the night pay window and said if he was not provided with cigarettes he would blow up the petrol station.

“He picked up a petrol pump and told Mr Paul: ‘If you do not open this door I will set it on fire’.”



Lahrne Dobbs pictured outside Cardiff Crown Court
Lahrne Dobbs pictured outside Cardiff Crown Court

The court heard how Mr Paul then feared for his life and phoned the police.

While Mr Paul was calling the police Dobbs began pumping the fuel onto the forecourt and lit the fuel with a lighter. He then poured the fuel onto his clothes.

Mr Paul saw what was happening and “left the security of the pay window” to tackle Dobbs. Footage played in court showed Mr Paul bravely taking the pump from Dobbs and pushing him away from the filling station.

Mr Williams told the court that Mr Paul also “patted out” flames during the harrowing incident.

Judge Michael Fitton QC told the defendant: “Mr Paul took it upon himself to challenge you while calling the police and patted you to extinguish the fire on your clothing.”



Lahrne Dobbs, pictured, threatened to blow up Rogiet's BP garage before a till worker on shift tackled him
Lahrne Dobbs, pictured, threatened to blow up Rogiet’s BP garage before a till worker on shift tackled him

Judge Fitton added that the “victim was particularly vulnerable as he left the security of his office and came to tackle him face to face”.

Dobbs had pleaded guilty to committing arson reckless as to the endangerment of life. He had 11 previous convictions for 15 offences.

After the incident Dobbs ran from the station and was arrested by Gwent Police officers soon afterwards.

Andrew Taylor, for Dobbs, told the court that the defendant had been struggling particularly at the time with the effects of his bipolar disorder.

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The court heard from two psychiatric doctors, Dr Steve Attwood and Dr Rebecca Lendon, to gain a better insight into the impact of Dobbs’ mental state at the time of his offence.

Dr Attwood told the court that Dobbs had been “self-medicating” with alcohol and diazepam prior to the offence.

“There is evidence he has stopped medication more than once against medical advice,” he said. He added that “re-offending is always going to be a risk” and that the defendant “lacked insight into his illness”.

Mr Taylor and Dr Attwood said Dobbs was a much-changed and “well” man following a 10-month custody term while on remand.

Dr Attwood advised the court that a section 37 order under the Mental Health Act 1983 was most appropriate for the defendant.

Dr Lendon also advised that an indefinite hospital stay was a more beneficial resolution than prison until doctors were satisfied that the defendant was not a danger to himself and others.

Judge Fitton sentenced Dobbs under sections 41 and 37 of the Mental Health Act 1983 to an indefinite hospital stay and issued a restraining order to prohibit him from approaching Mr Paul physically or otherwise.

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