“I’M the Angel Gabriel,” a man allegedly said after fleeing from police and jumping into the canal where a fire broke out in his boat.

James Jonas is on trial at Oxford Crown Court charged with several offences, including one count of arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered.

It is alleged that the 38-year-old set his boat, The Happy Go Lucky, on fire on August 19 last year in the Duke’s Cut Waterway canal near Gosford after a dispute with his neighbour, David Hartland.

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A jury heard that Jonas allegedly owned Mr Hartland money and the pair had an informal agreement that if he didn’t pay, Mr Hartland would take ownership of his boat.

During the ongoing trial on Tuesday (April 16), it was heard that police were called to the fire in the early evening but Jonas had fled from the scene.

He was pursued by at least three officers, one included PC Mark Jones, who was allegedly assaulted by the defendant.

Oxford Mail: The Happy Go Lucky before the fire The Happy Go Lucky before the fire (Image: Handout)Giving evidence from the stand, PC Jones said he was chasing Jonas near the canal when a garden gate had slowed the defendant down, allowing the officer to catch up and grab his arm.

However, he alleges that as he grabbed Jonas’s arm, the defendant turned around and punched him twice.

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“I lost my footing and a punch was thrown at me,” he said. “I didn’t make any strikes towards him. He ran off and I jumped and shouted after him.”

It was heard that PC Jones continued to chase Jonas who then allegedly jumped into the canal. The officer said he tried to converse with the defendant for about 20 minutes.

However, it’s claimed that all Jonas said was: “I’m the Angel Gabriel. I’m here to save you.”

Jonas was eventually arrested and taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital after being in the water before being taken into custody at Abingdon Police Station.

Another officer, who had cautioned and arrested the defendant, told the jury that Jonas allegedly said he had ‘chucked a cigarette onto the boat’ which started the fire.

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The jury heard earlier in the trial that due to the damage of the boat, a full investigation was unable to be carried out.

Jonas, of Woodstock Road, Oxford, was also charged with one count each of assault by beating of Mr Hartland, assault of an emergency worker, assault occasioning actual bodily harm of William Cross and intimidation of Mr Hartland knowing he would be a witness in impending proceedings.

He has denied all offences and the trial continues.