The court heard that 24-year old “Manuel M.” was hopping mad when he turned up at the apartment of “Marcel K.”, who owed him money, Blick newspaper reports.
Manuel, a trained miller, desperately wanted to collect the debt but the 43-year-old Marcel refused to cough up.
The younger man told the court that he wanted to pressure his debtor a bit and duly set fire to Marcel’s mattress.
He then recounted how he had quickly extinguished the flames before something more serious happened.
When Marcel stuck to his claim that he didn’t have any money, Manuel put a lit match to the living-room curtains before putting out the resultant blaze with water from a vase.
But the borrower dug his heels in and Manuel’s third attempt to extract the money through arson led to the complete destruction of the one and a half-room apartment. Manuel explained to the court that not a single drop of water flowed from the tap when he went to replenish his reserves.
Both men escaped from the fire. Marcel K. went to hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation and Manuel M. was arrested soon afterwards, Blick reported.
The debt collector stood before the Zurich district court on Thursday more than two years after the fire.
The judge asked him: “How did you get the unusual idea of playing with matches?”
“It came to me spontaneously after going out,” Manuel M. replied, “I was under the influence of alcohol. It was simply unfair what he did to me.”
The court convicted the the miller of arson and sentenced him to 14 months in prison. He must also pay damages of 30,000 francs ($33, 245) when he has money.