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Two jailed for man's death in fire prank

TWO MEN who doused a semi-professional footballer with white spirit and set him ablaze in a row over a woman, were jailed yesterday after changing their pleas to manslaughter.

Barry Oliver, 31, and Andrew Card, 33, remained impassive as they were sentenced at Chester Crown Court. Both had pleaded not guilty to murder.

Oliver, of Nantwich, was jailed for eight years, and Card, from Crewe, for six years.

During the two-week trial the court was told how Ryan Keen, 20, who played for Nantwich Town, died after a prank to scare him away from a former girlfriend of Card's went wrong.

The court had been told that after scoring the winning goal in a match last February, Mr Keen went with Oliver and Card to a pub. Both accused had been drinking all day and were overheard talking about pouring petrol over someone.

The three later went to Oliver's home nearby where 15 minutes later Mr Keen was set on fire. Both men told the court that they had been playing a game.

Turpentine substitute was sprinkled over Mr Keen as a joke and a match was applied.

Witnesses said they heard shouting and screaming and saw Mr Keen 'naked apart from one shoe and his socks'. The only part of his body which was not burned was the back of a foot. Anthony Evans QC, for the prosecution, said: 'He was dreadfully burned. There were strips of skin falling off various parts of his body.'

Mr Justice Waterhouse told the men: 'Ryan Keen became an incandescent ball of flame. The result of this was that he sustained the most terrible burns and died in agony 10 hours later.'

The judge said he was satisfied that both men had shown remorse and had not intended to cause serious injury. He said Oliver must bear the greater sentence because he was the originator of the scheme. Card had applied the flame which resulted in Mr Keen suffering 95 per cent burns.