A masked attacker has been jailed for bursting into an autistic man’s room and putting a realistic looking fake gun to his head.

David Collings believed the young victim had been spreading rumours that he is a paedophile and went to his sheltered accommodation to terrify him into silence.

He took friend Fabian Leat with him on the raid on the property in Ilfracombe and gave him a large claw hammer to take with him on the mission.

They forced the victim, who suffers from severe autism, ADHD, and a range of mental health issues, into a chair where Collings put the gun to his head.

Leat backed up the threat by smashing the hammer into a wall of the house in Oxford Grove and then starting a fire in a bin which he fueled with old takeaway boxes and birthday cards.

Collings was wearing a balaclava and a mask with the letter V on it during the attack.

The pair fled, leaving the terrified man to put out the fire and raise the alarm. Police never recovered the gun, but Leat left the hammer at the scene.

Collings, aged 23, of Larkstone Terrace, Ilfracombe, admitted possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and was jailed for 14 months by Recorder Jo Martin, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

Leat aged 22, of Hillsborough Road, Ilfracombe, admitted possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and arson and was jailed for ten months, suspended for two years and ordered to do 25 days of rehabilitation activities.

She told them: “The victim is an extremely vulnerable young man living in supported accommodation. He did not deserve to be threatened and assaulted and made to feel as terrified as he was.

“Collings, you planned what you did. You had a balaclava and a mask with a V on it. It may have been a BB gun but to all intents and purposes it looked like a real gun.

“When you produced it and put it to his head and threatened him with it. It would have been utterly terrifying.”

The Recorder made a seven-year restraining order banning further contact and prohibiting any return to the address.

Herc Ashworth, prosecuting, said the incident happened on September 19 last year and support workers noted a deterioration in the victim’s mental health as a result.

Hollie Gilbery, for Collings, said he also suffers from autism, ADHD, and mental health issues and acted impulsively because he believed the victim was spreading rumours he was a paedophile.

Collings has been on suicide watch in prison and is desperate to be released because of serious illness in his family. He is at risk of losing his own supported accommodation if he receives an immediate sentence.

Martin Pearce, for Leat, said he, Like Collings and the victim, suffers from issues including autism, a personality disorder, ADHD, and PTSD.

He said he got involved through a misplaced sense of loyalty to Collings and had used the hammer to damage a wall rather than make direct threats. The fire was put out quickly and caused no damage.