Jealous husband `set fire to wife'

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The Independent Online
A woman wearing a surgical mask and gloves to protect her scarred hands told a court yesterday how her jealous husband had set fire to her. Michelle Beattie, 31, had started an affair with a workmate while her husband Leslie was on holiday in Tenerife. The couple had already decided to end their eight-year marriage after drifting apart.

But Mr Beattie, 35, could not bear the thought of his wife in the arms of another man, Durham Crown Court was told.

After a family party ended in a row, Mrs Beattie went to sleep in the spare bedroom of the couple's home in Cramlington, Northumberland.

Paul Batty, for the prosecution, said Mr Beattie carried their sleeping five-year-old daughter Gemma downstairs and put her on the sofa. Then he went back and doused his wife with petrol he had siphoned from his motorcycle.

Mrs Beattie told the jury that she woke and found her husband standing over her with a petrol can and cigarette lighter.

He sprinkled petrol on her clothes and over the bed and carpet. "He brought the lighter in front of me and kept threatening `I'll do it, I'll do it'. I was terrified. I just froze."

Then police arrived at the house. "As the police entered the room my husband shouted `You bastards'," Mrs Beattie said.

"The place just seemed to go up like a bomb. There was a big explosion. I felt myself ignite. My whole body was ablaze. It was just like slow motion."

Mr Batty said that as PC Frank Clarke struggled to grab Mr Beattie's lighter there was a spark and the bedroom exploded into a fireball.

Mrs Beattie spent more than three months in hospital with 41 per cent burns. She was permanently disfigured and faced a series of operations.

Mr Beattie denies attempting to murder his wife and two charges of arson with intent to endanger life in December 1993. He admits arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered but says his lighter went off accidentally as one of the officers forced his arm down.

The case continues today.