Jail for man who set ex-girlfriend alight

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A BRITISH teacher who doused his former girlfriend in more than a gallon of petrol and set her alight was jailed for almost 20 years yesterday by a court in Australia.

Stephen Rae, 35, of Crieff, Perthshire, had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to murder the British nurse Gabriella Mazzali in February last year. Ms Mazzali, 29, of Lincolnshire, suffered severe burns to 93 per cent of her body in the attack, at her flat in western Sydney.

Sentencing Rae at Parramatta District Court in Sydney, Judge Angela Karpin told him he had condemned Ms Mazzali to a life of pain. Doctors all but wrote off her chance of survival after she was taken to hospital with burns to every part of her body but the soles of her feet.

At his trial in Sydney in October, the court was told Rae had broken down the door of her flat and poured 1.3 gallons of petrol over her after she ended their relationship. A neighbour heard her screams and tried to restrain Rae but he broke free and struck a lighter.

Judge Karpin said Ms Mazzali threw herself down some stairs in an attempt to put out the flames but they were not extinguished until the neighbour poured water over her. Rae then set Ms Mazzali's flat alight before he walked down the stairs, stepped over her and left the building. A short time later, he went to a police station where he told police: "I have done a very bad crime."

Judge Karpin told the Parramatta District Court: "He extinguished forever the life she had as a successful and attractive young woman.

"She is doomed to be a prisoner of her injuries for the rest of her life."

Ms Mazzali, who had been living in Australia for two years when she was attacked, travelled to Sydney to give evidence at the trial.

In a statement in October, she said: "I am absolutely elated by the fact that he has decided to plead guilty because it indicates that he is now accepting responsibility for what he has done.

"I'm pleased that this part of my ordeal is over. Now I just want to get on with picking up the pieces of my life."

This week, Rae said: "If I had one message for Gaby it would be that I didn't go there to burn her to death. I want her to know that I didn't intentionally put every scar on her."

Rae was sentenced to serve a maximum of 19 years and eight months' imprisonment, with a minimum term of 14 years, nine months.