A HOMELESS man was set on fire as he slept in the doorway of a city centre shop.

The 39-year-old awoke to find the end of his sleeping bag in flames.

He ran off with burns to his legs and feet before calling an ambulance from less than a mile away and he was taken to hospital.

It happened as he slept in the doorway of the Cotswold Outdoor shop in Western Road shortly after 2am on Monday.

Police called it a nasty assault and appealed for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward.

People living on the streets nearby said the incident reflected a a far too common trend of violence against them.

One man who sleeps in nearby North Street said: "That nearly happened to me once. I woke up and they were down at the bottom of my sleeping bag with their lighter going, but because of the wind it would not light. They ran off, sniggering."

Tom Pinder, 41, who sleeps nearby, said: "I remember a guy who got lighter fluid set all over him and set alight; luckily he had his sleeping bag unzipped so he could get out quickly."

Lee O'Leary, who used to sleep near to Cotswold in Western Road, said violence was relatively common.

He said: "Sometimes it is homeless people against other homeless people - it might be a dispute over drink or drugs or territory or stuff like that."

No-one has been arrested over this incident and the motive is not yet known.

Firefighters were called to the doorway outside Cotswold when someone reported a burning piece of cardboard.

The Argus understands smoke had also filtered through into the shop, triggering its alarms.

The shop's door was also cracked.

Firefighters realised it was suspicious and called police. But it was only after the man called paramedics from London Road they realised the full extent of what had happened.

He was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, to be treated for his injuries.

It is not believed he regularly slept in that spot. Detective Sergeant James Meanwell said: "This was a nasty assault on a homeless man while he was sleeping. We would like to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time or has any information."

A spokesman for Love Activists Brighton said incidents like this were beoming increasingly common.

He added: "A homeless man was burned to death in Salford in January this year.

"Attacks like these prove conclusively that all people living on the streets are in 'priority need', because they are all significantly more vulnerable than housed people."

He highlighted figures showing the average age of death for a homeless person is 47 and they are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence.

Anyone witnesses or anyone with information is urged to email 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or phone 101 quoting serial 68 of March 7.