A TEENAGER who robbed an 84-year-old woman at knifepoint in a church he had set alight at the end of a spree of violent offending has been jailed.

The 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, demanded cash from the old lady after confronting her in St Bartholemew’s and All Saints’, in Wootton Bassett.

And the youth had already tried to mug another man and also set fire to another shed on a nearby allotment before setting the fire in the church.

When he was arrested later that day he revealed he had ‘lost his head’ after being told he couldn’t have money to go shopping with his friends.

Claire Marlow, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how the spate of offending took place on April 5. She said at about 1pm the emergency services were called to allotments, off Church Street, where a shed had been torched and a polythene greenhouse slashed.

David Harris, manager of the allotments, saw a youth waving a knife around as he talked to a fireman saying: “When you go to Swindon you’ve got to be tooled up.”

About 25 minutes later a man walking along Church Street saw a young man shouting and swearing who approached him saying “I want your money,” and “I’ve got a knife”.

He produced a small kitchen knife with a three-inch serrated blade which he held in an aggressive way, but he fled when three builders came round the corner.

Shortly after, the 84-year-old lady was in the church when she saw a young man coming from the altar area holding two bottles.

He got between her and the door and said “Give me your money and give me your phone,” and looked disgusted when she handed over £1.20 as she didn’t have a phone.

The lad then pulled out the knife and told her not to leave the church as he fled, and when she did she was met outside by the police.

They were then aware of a large fire in the sacristy area of the church, where robes, books, candles, and altar linen is kept.

The blaze was put out using fire extinguishers and it was noticed that two bottles of communion wine were missing. The teenager was detained later in Station Road.

The boy, who is now 15, pleaded guilty to robbery, attempted robbery, two counts of arson, theft, criminal damage and possessing an offensive weapon.

Jason Taylor, defending, said his client had been in local authority care since he was a young child after a poor start to life.

He said he never knew his natural father and his step dad physically abused him, his mother’s life was affected by drink and drugs and he started using cannabis when he was just eight years old.

On the day of the offences he said wanted to go shopping for a jacket in Cricklade with friends, but lost his head when he was refused money by his carers.

Mr Taylor said a psychiatric report and youth offending team both concluded that he risked coming out of prison more hardened if he was jailed.

Judge Douglas Field imposed a two year detention and training order, meaning he would spend half the time in custody and the second part receiving training.

Speaking after the court case, Reverend Canon Thomas Woodhouse said: “We have moved on really as far as that is concerned.

“If there was an opportunity and he wanted to meet me to talk or apologise we would be available.

“Justice has to be done but there is no satisfaction seeing a 14-year-old who is so troubled. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness that a young life has been so disrupted.

“I hope he can be supported – he is the most injured person in all of this. Life will go on for us but he is in a very dark place.

“With the right chances he would be a good person.”