A GARAGE manager who downed 20 pints in a nine-hour binge before torching the tyre-centre he ran has been jailed.
Colin McReadie, 22, caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage after he set fire to a Budget Tyre Centre in Edinburgh.
McReadie had recently been promoted to manager but claims he was struggling to deal with the responsibility of the job.
And after being told he was to have a meeting with bosses McReadie set light to the Piershill Place premises causing over £700,000 worth of damage.
Dozens of firefighters fought the inferno as highly flammable gas cylinders threatened to ignite and the garage was closed for weeks following the fire on September 29 last year.
At Edinburgh Sheriff Court McReadie was jailed for 28 months after he had earlier admitted wilful fireraising.
Fiscal depute Aidan Higgins told the court how McReadie had been working for Budget for less than three months when he was promoted to manager.
Mr Higgins said: “At the time of the offence the panel was the branch manager of Budget Tyre Auto Centre at Piershill Place in Edinburgh. He had been working there for about three months and the promotion to branch manager had taken place around two weeks prior to the charge.”
But managers had become worried about his performance and had arranged a meeting to discuss McReadie’s future at the company.
Mr Higgins said: “During that short period there had been a number of problems that had come to the attention of his own managers and immediately before the time of the incident the panel feared that he was to be sacked imminently.
“On the morning of the offence the panel failed to attend at his work and this brought matters to a head and he was told to attend the next day for a meeting about his future.”
But that night McReadie asked two pals to pick him up from a pub and take him to the garage.
Mr Higgins said: “The panel’s associates drove to the pub and collected the panel just before 10 pm. The panel, as he wished, was taken to the Budget auto centre.”
McReadie used his company key to sneak into the empty business and switched off the alarm before setting fire to a stack of tyres inside the garage.
Mr Higgins said: “Once inside he made his way over to a rack of tyres in the building and used a gas torch to set these tyres on fire. The panel then reset the alarm to the premises.”
After lighting the inferno, McReadie calmly asked his mates to drop him back off at the pub he had been in before a nearby dog walker raised the alarm.
Thirty-five firefighters tackled the blaze at its peak and traffic had to be diverted as two major incident units and three appliances dealt with the flames.
Mr Higgins said: “The fire brigade attended and by the time they got there the building was engulfed in flames.”
The fire spread to the roof and caused serious damage and even fire fighters had to be evacuated because of the fear of explosion and collapse while glass was blown out of doors by the power of the blaze.
Mr Higgins said the total loss and damage to the building was estimated at £701,626.
He said: “That related to the damaged buildings that were effectively destroyed and also the loss of machinery in the building and stock and trade.”
McReadie’s solicitor, Rhona MacLeod, said the promotion to manager had come too soon for McReadie and, when his boss warned him he faced the sack, the pressure pushed him over the edge.
On the day he started the fire, McReadie had gone to a nearby pub at 1pm, where he commenced a nine-hour, 20 pint lager session.
Miss MacLeod said: “He was very diligent and he was sometimes working 70 to 80 hours a week. He believed that he was facing the sack and he thought it was grossly unfair.
“He was just about on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He may have been promoted beyond his ability.”
During the binge, Mrs MacLeod said, McReadie and been “wound-up” by people who encouraged him to set the blaze.
She added: “While he may have said this as a throw away comment it is not something he would ever have done or acted upon unless there were people around pushing him into it.”
Sheriff Neil Mackinnon said only a custodial sentence could appropriately deal with the offence.
He said: “It appears that you had concern for your job security. You had consumed a significant quantity of alcohol.
“Those who you regarded as friends encouraged you in this appalling venture.”
Sheriff Mackinnon said he had reduced the sentence from 42 months because McReadie had admitted his guilt.
Budget confirmed that McReadie – of Northfield Circus, Edinburgh – was no longer working at the garage, just off Portobello Road.