A TAXI driver feared for his life after a yob threw a lit firework on to his lap while he was behind the wheel, a court has heard.

Stephen Westhead, aged 25, laughed and said “your taxi is on fire. What are you going to do now” as victim Akilbhai Fatakiya fled from the burning car.

Denise Fitzpatrick, prosecuting, said Westhead and two other men approached Mr Fatakiya’s Toyota Avensis while it was stopped at the junction of Union Road and Pole Street at about 10.30pm on November 6, last year.

One of the men asked the victim how he was seconds before Westhead threw a lit Roman candle into his private hire car.

Ms Fitzpatrick said: “Westhead threw the ignited firework into the taxi. It was alight, it landed on the knee of the taxi driver. It fell to the floor and landed in the driver’s foot well.

“The driver was scared for his life. He jumped out of the taxi and began to run away.”

Bolton Crown Court heard (MON) that a fire service crew manager, who attended the blaze, said the driver would “surely have died” if he had not fled. The car, which cost £1,700 was completely destroyed.

Mark Friend, defending, said Westhead, of of Union Road, Tonge Moor, was drunk and “did an incredibly foolish” thing.

He had been struggling to cope with family issues as his ex-partner had been in a relationship with his brother. His child was also in foster care.

Judge Peter Davies, sentencing, said: “The three of you thought it would be amusing if you lit a firework and threw it into a car. I think it was dangerous and nasty.

“A firework is a bomb with all that petrol and oil. Even without that environment it is lethal.

“Spiteful, wicked and nasty is what it was. You excuse yourself with intoxication — I don’t think that’s an excuse I think it’s worse.”

Westhead, who has seven previous convictions, admitted arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He was jailed for five years.

Nick Astley, director at Metro Cars, who Mr Fatakiya drives for, said: “I am pleased the judge has seen it as being really serious. This is the first time I have known of a car to be set on fire from a firework.

“It probably started as a bit of a fun and a fame but it’s turned out to be really nasty. Fortunately only the car was damaged. If Mr Fatakiya hadn’t got out of the car he would have died or been seriously injured.”