Car 'set ablaze with couple tied up inside'

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The Independent Online
A COUPLE who had been beaten and bound were dumped in their car which was set on fire and pushed over a steep hill, a court was told yesterday.

It was a 'cold, calculating and horrific' bid to kill the lovers in a faked accident so that a former woman partner could gain pounds 138,000 in insurance policies, Alun Jenkins, for the prosecution, told Bristol Crown Court.

But Ivor Stokle, 34, and his girlfriend, Pauline Leyshon, 43, struggled free and fell burning through the doors of their speeding vehicle as it plunged in flames down Crickley Hill, a beauty spot near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. They staggered uphill with their clothes on fire, and were treated by police and ambulancemen who had been alerted when passers-by saw the burning car on 15 November 1991.

Mr Stokle still had rope and leather horse reins tied around his legs, neck and body, Mr Jenkins said. Mrs Leyshon, her hair burning and face soot-blackened, was not immediately recognised as a woman. That only became apparent, he said, when she collapsed into a policeman's arms. Both survived despite suffering 30-40 per cent burns to their bodies.

Mr Jenkins said Sheila Stroud, 32, a businesswoman, Mark Evans, 31, her lover, and Norman White, 30, an unemployed man, arranged the incident to make it look like a car accident involving Mrs Leyshon, who was a learner driver.

The jury was told that Ms Stroud, who was Mr Stokle's former lover, stood to gain more than pounds 138,000 in policies on his death.

Ms Stroud and Mr Evans, of Staunton, near Stroud, and Mr White, of Cromwell Street, Gloucester, deny two joint charges of attempted murder.

The trial continues today.