A BURGLAR has been sentenced to eight years in prison for deliberately starting a fire that left an OAP with serious burns.

Ireneusz Strzelczyk, 26, started the 1.30am fire in the Abbey Road, West Oxford, house to cover his tracks, a judge said.

This was despite Strzelczyk admitting he heard snoring from householder William Dinham.

The 77-year-old managed to escape and needed specialist treatment for burns to his head and body.

The fire on October 23 was started in his late wife’s bedroom and destroyed precious mementoes of their lives together.

Judge Anthony King said: “Mr Dinham suffered physical and emotional damage from which it is unlikely he will every fully recover.”

He told the defendant he “decided that the best way of covering up the offence you had committed was to deliberately start the fire”.

Strzelczyk initially admitted burglary but denied arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered. But he changed his plea to guilty on the latter charge before trial, though Judge King said he deserved “little or no credit” for this.

Strzelczyk said the fire started accidently from ash from his cigarette but Judge King said this was not backed by an expert witness.

Judge King said Mr Dinham’s late wife’s personal effects had “significant meaning” for him. He said: “Mr Dinham woke to find the room full of smoke. It must have been terrifying.

“With some difficulty he made his escape from the house, suffering in the course of that time significant and serious burns.”

He suffered burns to his back, face, neck and arms and needed skin grafts, the judge heard at Oxford Crown Court yesterday. The former railway worker spent weeks in the burns unit at Aylesbury’s Stoke Mandeville Hospital, he said.

Judge King said Strzelczyk’s actions “may to some extent be explained by alcohol and drugs” and he therefore is not a “serious risk” of re-offending.

The Polish national had UK convictions for shoplifting and criminal damage and burglary, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and criminal damage in his home country.

Judge King said he would have “no compunction” in deporting him on release. The decision will rest with the Home Office.

He sentenced Strzelczyk to eight years for the arson offence and three years for burglary to run concurrently.

This will take into account 309 days already served.