March 18, 2022 4.18 pm This story is over 20 months old

‘Dangerous’ alcoholic who set fire to girlfriend jailed for over two decades

Left his girlfriend fighting for her life with 80% burns

A man who left his girlfriend fighting for her life with 80% burns when he poured petrol over her and ignited it with his lighter has been given an extended sentence of over 21 years, Lincoln Crown Court heard today.

Leigh Pateman, 43, admitted dousing Ellen Marshall, 42, with the petrol during a row at their multiple occupancy flat in Skegness, Lincolnshire.

Ms Marshall, who was originally from Nottingham, then suffered horrific burns after Pateman lit his lighter as she sat in a lounge chair.

A court heard Ms Marshall suffered 80% burns, required mechanical ventilation and her chances of survival were rated at less than 50%.

Lincoln Crown Court was told Pateman had made a previous threat to set Ms Marshall alight and had kept the petrol at his property after buying it, but Ms Marshall did not believe his threat.

When emergency services arrived at the shared property in Firbeck Avenue on April 22 last year, Pateman had already fled.

Sarah Knight, prosecuting, said firefighters were called to the property by another resident shortly after 10.30pm and found the living room covered in black smoke.

One of the firefighters heard a gurgling noise and discovered the body of a woman on the floor.

The incident happened on Firbeck Avenue in Skegness. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Miss Knight said: “She was very badly injured. There was little hair left on her head. Her face was so badly burnt even then it was difficult to make out her facial features.”

The court heard Ms Marshall was still conscious and managed to give her name.

“She was clearly in extreme pain, writhing around,” Miss Knight added.

The court heard Ms Marshall claimed to have caused the injuries herself after pouring petrol but ambulance staff thought this was unlikely due to her pattern of injuries.

Ms Marshall was taken to Boston Pilgrim Hospital with burns to her face, neck, abdomen, chest and limbs, and quickly transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for specialist treatment.

The court heard Pateman fled the scene on his bike after pouring two bowls of water over Ms Marshall and he was arrested at his mother’s house after going to bed.

He was covered in soot and also needed hospital treatment for burns before he was taken back into police custody for interview.

Pateman told police he had been arguing with Ms Marshall for months and said they were both dependent on alcohol.

He claimed he bought the petrol for his strimmer, and only poured the petrol over Ms Marshall to scare her, but was then messing about with his lighter.

CCTV from the street showed a flash from the property.

Investigators said the blaze was limited to the living room but there were three seats to the fire in that room, and accelerant had been used.

Firbeck Avenue in Skegness. | Photo: The Lincolnite

The court heard Ms Marshall suffered serious injuries to her eyes and lost several fingers, and has recently been transferred to Nottingham City Hospital. She can only walk a few steps with a frame.

Specialists now hope she will survive her injuries, but even when Ms Marshall is discharged she will require 24 hour care.

“She will now and always look facially different”, Miss Knight said. “Her life expectancy has been reduced as a result.”

Kevin Jones, mitigating, said Pateman had a limited record for serious violence and asked for a life sentence not to be imposed.

Pateman, of Firbeck Avenue, Skegness, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to causing Ms Marshall grievous bodily harm with intent on April 22, 2021.

Passing sentence Judge Simon Hirst said it was difficult to conceive of more serious harm to someone who is aware of them.

“Her injuries are irreversible and she will never be able to return to her former life,” Judge Hirst said.

Judge Hirst told Pateman he had no hesitation in concluding that he was dangerous and said he would have passed a life sentence if he had more serious previous convictions.

“It is difficult to think of a crueller crime than setting someone alight,” Judge Hirst told Pateman.

“You used a highly dangerous weapon with the use of fire and an accelerant.”

Pateman was sentenced to a custodial term of 17 years and ten months imprisonment and must serve a further four years on licence after his release making a total extended sentence of 21 years and ten months.