Jailed: Drunk who tried to set fire to Zen Store in legal highs row

Picture from West Midlands Police
Picture from West Midlands Police

A row over the sale of ‘legal highs’ ended when a drunk customer doused a shop keeper in white spirits and tried to set him alight.

Kevin Keegan, 60, was jailed for two years eight months for his actions which left staff at the Zen Shop in Moseley  terrified for their lives.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how Keegan used a Fairy Liquid bottle to squirt one worker with the flammable liquid and threaten to set him on fire.

As terrified workers locked drunk Keegan outside the St Mary’s Row store, he then sprayed the accelerant onto a piece of carpet and around the doorway before attempting to light it with matches.

Jacob Dowding and co-worker Steve Parkes feared the liquid was petrol and believed they were about to be burnt alive in the alternative therapy shop.

Judge Robin Rowland told Keegan, who admitted attempted arson: “You took exception to the fact the shop sold what are called ‘legal highs’.


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“Although there may be a public debate about that practice, the fact remains that shop was engaged in a lawful act.

“In the course of the aggressive altercation you threatened to pour petrol over them.

“People in the shop must have been terrified.

“I accept your primary motivation was to scare them but the way you did it, brandishing matches and using an accelerant brought a not insignificant risk.”

Patrick Sullivan, prosecuting , said Keegan had downed around 10 pints before going to the alternative therapy shop with a pal on September 21 last year.

The second man bought a ‘legal high’ from the shop but an argument broke out when staff refused to advise him on taking it safely.

They told him it was against the law for them to offer such guidance.

Mr Sullivan said: “Overhearing this the defendant became upset and the tenor, to what became an aggressive demeanour, was that these legal highs are more dangerous than Class A drugs.”

Mr Dowding and  Mr Parkes ushered Keegan from the shop, only for the drunk to return 30 minutes later when Mr Parkes was smoking outside.

He asked the worker if he wanted to be covered in petrol before leaving only to return again 30 minutes later.

That time he was carrying a Fairy Liquid bottle and encountered Mr Dowding outside the shop.

Mr Sullivan said: “The defendant squirted the contents over Mr Dowding’s jumper but he didn’t take it seriously.

“He said, “what’s that, Fairy Liquid?” to which the defendant replied he should smell it.

“On smelling it, Mr Dowding realised it most certainly was not Fairy Liquid, he thought it smelled like petrol.

“He then took what was happening very seriously.”

Mr Dowding raced back into the Zen Shop, locking the door behind him and alerted co-worker Mr Parkes what had happened.

Keegan then began dousing the doorway, including a patch of carpet, with the white spirits before pulling out a box of matches and trying to start a fire.

Through the door, the terrified workers heard him say: “You don’t fuck with me.”

Failing to set the store alight, Keegan fled, telling the workers beforehand: “I’ll be back for you.”

He handed himself in to police in December after a police appeal.

At first he claimed the bottle was filled with water but admitted his guilt on the day of his trial in October.

Natasha Bournes, defending, said previously homeless Keegan had got his life back on track but had drunk to excess before subjecting his victims to the terrifying ordeal.

She said: “It was simply a moment of madness having consumed too much alcohol.

“He asks me to express remorse for the actions undertaken.”

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