By David Walker
TWO men who used a homemade flame thrower to attack a neighbour after wrongly accusing him of being a paedophile have each been sentenced to two years in prison.
James Brown, 37, had his face burned with an aerosol can and was punched after vicious lies led the pair to believe he was watching their children.
Brown was so traumatised by the horrific attack that he immediately left his home and started sleeping rough to avoid further violence.
But he reported the incident to cops and his attackers Thomas Powch and William Ross were charged with attempted murder.
And at Edinburgh Sheriff Court they were sentenced after admitting a lesser charge of assault to injury after claims they also held him at knife-point were dropped.
The men, who were neighbours of Mr Brown, heard false rumours about Brown and went to his flat in April demanding to talk to him.
But when Mr Brown let them in, they launched into their attack, punching him in the head before Ross, 38, grabbed an aerosol and said: “This is how we treat beasts.”
Powch, 44, held up his lighter and used the improvised weapon to torch their victim, leaving his face badly burned.
Detectives used fingerprints lifted from the can of Brut to help trace the thugs who claimed the assault was an accident because their “lighter was like a flamethrower”.
Powch’s defence lawyer, Leanne McQuillan, said another man had spread the malicious rumour about the victim and the two men had acted on it.
She continued: “He is ashamed he listened to the rumours and even if they had been true he shouldn’t have acted on them.
“I think he realises a custodial sentence is what he deserves.”
Mr Brown reported the attack to the police who took him to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he was treated for the burns.
Ross’ defence agent Stephen Mannifield said his client was “distressed” when he sobered up and realised they had targeted the wrong man.
He said: “Both appear to have been duped into going to see the man. It seems to have been a case of opportunity rather than design.”
Mr Mannifield stressed that the pair had not entered the house armed and had simply “picked up” the spray.
But Sheriff Derrick McIntyre insisted the attack was still “very serious”.
He said: “This was a pretty unpleasant assault against a stranger falsely accused of being a paedophile.
“It was a vigilante type attack which took place in the victim’s home in the morning. You both had been drinking and used this spray as a flame thrower.
“The victim was afraid to leave his flat and has trouble sleeping.”
Powch’s sentence was backdated to the date of his arrest on April 25 while Ross’ was backdated to May 2.