A MAN poured lighter fluid over his body before threatening to set fire to himself at a block of flats, a court has heard.

Steven Charlett barricaded himself in an upstairs balcony at the council-owned estate and flicked a lighter while police officers tried to calm him down, a jury was told today.

The 31-year-old of Grays Road, Headington, Oxford, denies one count of 'attempted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered' and another count of threatening to destroy or damage property.

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Outlining the case at the start of the trial at Oxford Crown Court today, prosecutor David Swinnerton said the offences took place on Friday, August 2, last year.

A woman at the address, he said, called police at 10.23am and two officers were duly dispatched.

Prosecutors told jurors that one of the officers – PC Charlie Smith – went inside the flat and to the balcony, which Charlett had barricaded with pieces of wood.

When the officer tried to open the door Charlett allegedly made threats that he would kill himself and said ‘I will set myself on fire'.

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Charlett then picked up a bottle which was labelled ‘white spirit’ before pouring it over his body, prosecutors said.

Speaking of Charlett’s action Mr Swinnerton said that ‘his intention was clearly arson’ and added that there was ‘an obvious risk to safety'.

Police saw him flicking a lighter, the jury was told, and after PC Smith tried to kick down the door he surrendered and was arrested before being taken to Abingdon Police Station and interviewed.

Speaking of the incident from the witness box one of the two officers who attended, PC Smith, said: “I recall him jumping up immediately and then becoming very aggressive.

“I was just asking him to open the door. He was instantly shouting, it was very quick he jumped up.

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“He began threatening to kill himself saying he was going to set himself on fire.”

He described smelling a ‘very distinctive and strong smell that you would expect from paint thinner as I would describe it, an alcohol smell.’

Prosecutors went on to say that after Charlett was interviewed about the incident he denied having any intention of harming anyone.

After giving a prepared statement, he did not answer any of the questions put to him by the police.

Jurors also heard yesterday that he now asserts that the white liquid was in fact water.

Charlett denies both counts and the trial continues.