Man jailed for setting fire to fancy dress student
A man who set fire to a university student dressed as a sheep because he was "trying to get a laugh" was today jailed for five years.
Jason Whatley, 39, of Faroes Close, Fareham, Hampshire, was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court after admitting setting fire to 19-year-old Stuart Mitchell in October last year.
Mr Mitchell was left in "excruciating" pain with burns to 12 per cent of his body after his cotton wool fancy dress costume was engulfed in flames during a night out at the Headingley Taps pub in Leeds.
Whatley, who was visiting the city for a reunion and had drunk around eight pints at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty last month to arson reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Today, the court heard how Mr Mitchell suffered burns to his ankles, arms and hands and needed a number of skin graft operations after Whatley used a cigarette lighter to ignite his costume of Lycra tights and a top covered with hundreds of cotton wool balls.
A packed courtroom watched CCTV footage showing the second-year Leeds University student running from the pub covered in flames and throwing himself on to the ground in the car park, closely followed by Whatley, who did nothing to help.
Abdul Iqbal, prosecuting, said: "As he was running to the car park, he says the fire was on his back and he could feel and see flames shooting past his shoulders, on to his front, his arms and legs, spreading across his body, leading to excruciating pain."
Mr Iqbal continued: "The complainant describes being able to smell his own hair burning, which was particularly distressing to him."
The barrister told the court Mr Mitchell had been left with "severe" scarring and had to relinquish his place at university for the year.
Whatley, who was arrested near to the pub a short time later, at first denied knowing he had set anybody on fire but later told officers: "I was trying to get a laugh. I don't know what I was thinking."
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