Court hears man set wife on fire

A THURCROFT man accused of dousing his wife in white spirit before setting her on fire has gone on trial for her murder at Sheffield Crown Court.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th December 2012, 4:09 pm

Stephen Eastwood, 55, is alleged to have attacked his wife Angela at their Sycamore Drive home on 27th December last year.

Library assistant Mrs Eastwood, 56, suffered severe burns to her face, neck and chest, as well as respiratory problems. She died in hospital on 31st December - just a week after their wedding anniversary.

Bryan Cox QC, prosecuting, told the court the couple, who had been married for 10 years, had been at home together on 27th December when an argument started.

“The defendant left the hallway where the row was taking place and made his way to the garage and took from it a bottle of white spirit,” he said.

“He returned to the hall. Angela was wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown. He doused her in white spirit and put a naked flame to that white spirit.”

“Flames engulfed her neck and face causing severe burns. She also inhaled the products of combustion which caused damage to her respiratory tract.”

The court heard Angela may not have known how serious her condition was as the burns were so severe they had damaged nerve endings.

Mr Cox said following the attack Eastwood drove his wife to Rotherham hospital at around 6pm that evening. When asked how his wife had come by her injuries he told medical staff the white spirit had been spilled on her in an accident and had been ignited by a lit cigarette.

“But a lit cigarette, even when drawn, could not have ignited the white spirit. A naked flame was required,” Mr Cox told the jury.

Mrs Eastwood was transferred to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital later that night for further treatment.

But on 31st December her condition went quickly downhill and she died of pneumonia, caused Mr Cox said, by breathing in the gasses caused by the fire and the severity of her burns.

The court heard that Eastwood told police his wife’s injuries had been an accident.

He said he had packed a bag of clothes to leave following a row they had on Boxing Day.

But when Angela told him he couldn’t take them he got the white spirit to make her think he was going to burn them, telling her ‘if I can’t have them no one can’.

He claimed his wife ‘went mad’, waving her arms, knocking the white spirit over her. He said it was her own cigarette that ignited the flame causing her injuries.

“His intention was to set fire to her clothes and thereby cause her serious injury, if not kill her,” said Mr Cox. “He is, therefore, guilty of murder. The prosecution say what occurred was not an accident.”

Eastwood denies murder. The trial continues.