Boy died in petrol-sniffing prank

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A BOY died after being burnt during a petrol-sniffing session in a school playground, a court was told yesterday.

John Pickering's petrol-soaked clothes were set alight seconds after one of his friends joked: 'I'll give anyone a fiver who dares light him up.'

His friend Shane Goostrey, 18, of Linacre Avenue, Danesmoor, Derbyshire, admitted his manslaughter at Nottingham Crown Court. The court was told 15-year-old John's mother, Norma, had forgiven Goostrey and wanted her son's death to persuade others to stay away from petrol-sniffing and solvent abuse.

Andrew Hamilton, for the prosecution, said: 'Mrs Pickering and the boy's stepfather, Christopher Bradley, are in court and have discussed the matter. Neither bear any animosity towards the accused. But from the tragedy they hope young people can learn about the dangers of solvent abuse.'

Mr Hamilton described how John, of Pencroft Lane, Danesmoor, and Goostrey had arranged to meet friends at a playground at Danesmoor Infants School. John brought a red tin containing about two inches of petrol from the family's shed.

Mr Hamilton told the court five boys and three girls passed around the tin, inhaling the vapours. He said: 'John Pickering appears to have blacked out. He dropped the petrol can over his lap and clothes.'

Goostrey reached into his pocket and got out a gas-lighter, Mr Hamilton said. Within seconds John was engulfed in 2ft-high flames. Most of his friends ran off in a panic. Members of the public ran to his aid, but he died the next day.

Goostrey was sentenced to 12 months at a young offenders' institution. Passing sentence, Mr Justice May said: 'I accept your remorse is genuine.'