A CAR was set on fire in Newton-le-Willows in the early hours of this morning, after an apparent failed attempt to steal the vehicle.

At around 12:25am, Melissa Wilson explained that she heard a loud bang outside her home on Alder Street, Newton.

Looking outside to investigate, she witnessed a man dressed all in black trying all the door handles of a parked blue BMW in what she thought was an attempt to steal the vehicle.

The vehicle's window was then smashed with a hammer before almost instantly blowing up in flames.

This was said to startle the perpetrator, who fell backwards into the road before riding away on a black bike.

Melissa said: "About 5 minutes after going up to bed, I just heard this loud bang as I had the window slightly open.

"I seen this figure dressed all in black at the back end of a car trying all the door handles and I thought he was trying to steal it.

"As I went to open the window further, I heard this loud popping sound and the car was just engulfed in flames."

Acting on instinct, Richard Quinn, a water engineer and the father of Melissa's children, rushed outside and began hosing the flames down with an industrial drainage pump from his work van.

With the vehicle looking likely to explode, Richard's quick thinking enabled him to put the fire out after around 2 or 3 minutes, before the police and fire service arrived.

After posting a clip of the incident on social media, Richard has been praised for his quick thinking and preventing a much more severe situation from unravelling.

The owner of the BMW is Melissa's next door neighbour's boss, who had left it there after having a few drinks.

St Helens Star: The motive for the arson is currently unclearThe motive for the arson is currently unclear

Merseyside police have opened an investigation into the incident, yet it is presently unclear what the motive was for setting the car alight or what caused it to set on fire so quickly.

A Merseyside police spokesperson said: "We were contacted at 12.30am today, Monday 27th September, to reports a BMW was on fire outside a house on Alder Street in Newton-le-Willows.

"The fire caused extensive damage to the car and the incident is being treated as suspected malicious ignition.

"CCTV and house-to-house enquiries have been carried out in the local area and an investigation is underway.

"Anyone with information is asked to DM @MerPolCC or @CrimestoppersUK on 0800 555 111 quoting reference  21000671060."