A MAN threatened to “burn down half of Eastleigh” as an act of revenge on experts who cut his drug-dependency medication.

Heroin user Andrew Damien Melrose made the threat during an angry phone call to a probation officer, in which he also asked, “if I can’t burn down my own town, what can I burn?”

Just minutes after the call ended, the 43-year-old was spotted on CCTV stacking cardboard and a piece of wood against the town’s probation office.

But “intoxicated” Melrose was interrupted by a passer-by who removed the piled litter.

He was arrested and charged for his threat to cause criminal damage.

But Melrose avoided facing charges of attempted arson, after a judge ruled that it was not clear from the CCTV whether he had tried to light the cardboard.

He was sentenced to a 10 month suspended prison sentence at Southampton Crown Court.

The court heard how Melrose made the threat during a phone call to his probation officer on April 25 last year.

Prosecutor, Tim Compton, said Melrose was then seen walking along Hanns Way towards the back of the probation service’s Inclusion building, which fronts onto Eastleigh High Street.

He is seen carrying a piece of wood and a stack of cardboard, which he places against the building, before bending down – where he is obscured by a car.

Mr Compton said: “What I can say is that he is trying to light it.

“But what has been investigated is the threat. What’s not been investigated is what on the face of it looks like arson.”

During a previous court hearing, Jamie Gammon, defending Melrose, described his client as a “troubled man”.

Mr Gammons said that, as well as 44 previous convictions, Melrose had abused a wide-array of drugs.

Although now said to be clean, he had abused butane gas, solvents such as Tipp-Ex, and more conventional drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

At the time of the incident he was taking methadone, a prescription medication often used to treat heroin addicts.

According to Mr Gammon, doctors had taken the decision to cut Melrose’s prescription to one dose a day.

He said this caused problems for the unemployed Horton Heath resident, who could not afford to make regular journeys into Eastleigh to pick up his medication.

“His motivation it seems was a reaction to the fact that his methadone prescription had been reduced to one a day and he didn’t have the finance to come into Eastleigh from Horton Heath,” Mr Gammon said.

“He felt it was done deliberately to distress him,” said Mr Gammon, who described his client’s threat to burn down half of Eastleigh as “ludicrous”.

He insisted Melrose’s decision to pile cardboard against the building was done to make his threat seem real.

Sitting judge, Recorder Tim Rose, said it was this decision which added to the “seriousness” of the case.

He said: “(Arson) is something these courts take extremely seriously because of the particularly devastating effects and the risk to people’s lives.

“You put a piece of wood and some cardboard in a small pile against the back wall and you were bending over it as if perhaps attempting to light it.

“But I have to accept it is not completely clear if you are or not, because there are no witness statements to piece together what is going on.

“I cannot be sure that you were definitely trying to start a fire because the evidence simply isn’t there."

Mr Rose added: “I hope you realise how serious this incident was.”

Alongside a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, Melrose, of Burnetts Field, Horton Heath, was also given a 16 week night-time curfew.

He was also ordered to pay a surcharge, which the judge added to his outstanding court debts - said to be “over £5000”.