A Stevenage man who launched a campaign of threats against a neighbour has been jailed for 22 months

John McCluckie, 31, of Cuttys Lane, was told by a judge at St Albans Crown Court that he had terrified the woman for 10 days.

During that time he threatened to set fire to her flat, threatened to rape her, banged on her door and on one occasion pinched her bottom.

McCluckie and his victim lived in the same block of flats in Stevenage.

He pleaded guilty to a single offence of harassment and the court was told it began on July 8 last year when she heard shouting and banging on her letter box that morning.

She thought she could smell petrol and when she opened her door she saw McCluckie holding a white canister containing lighter fluid at the height of her letter box.

Two days later he banged on her door for three or four minutes and shouted “If you don’t open the door I am going to set fire to your flat".

Prosecutor John Upton said on July 14 last year she went to the lift to take her dog for a walk and when the lift door opened she saw a man with his back to her.

When the lift door closed McCluckie turned around and accused the woman of trying to get him arrested, telling her “I could rape you at any time if I wanted to".

When the lift reached the ground floor he pushed past her and pinched her bottom.

The next day he shouted outside her door and posted a note saying “I am sorry for frightening you.”

He banged on her door on two more occasions, shouting gibberish before the police arrested him on July 20.

Defending, Douglas Page said McCluckie had been treated as an inpatient at a psychiatric unit. He had been held either in prison or custody for eight months and 22 days - the equivalent of a 17 month sentence.

He said: “He is concerned about his accommodation. If he is released from hospital he has nowhere to go. He does not want to be released onto the street.”

Judge Nigel Lithman QC made an order banning McCluckie from contacting the victim, directly or indirectly, and from commenting about her on social media.

The judge said: “What you did was inflict real and violent threats that must have terrified her.”

McCluckie was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment.