Ballroom champ on trial for setting light to partner

Perth, (AP) - An Australian champion ballroom dancer is to stand trial on a charge of attempting to murder his wife and dancing partner by dousing her in petrol and setting her on fire. Michael Withers, who pleaded not guilty to attempting to murder Stacey Withers after she allegedly refused to give him money to go to a casino when he was drunk, was committed to stand trial in July.

At the time of the alleged incident last November the couple, who had been married for more than two years, were thereigning West Australian state champion ballroom dancers.

During Monday's committal hearing, Mrs Withers - who was wearing a surgical suit which covered her body and face - told Perth magistrates' court that her husband had threatened to teach her a lesson when she refused to give him money. She said he soaked her in petrol at their home.

"He walked towards me and tipped the jerry can of petrol over my head. He then walked around me throwing the petrol on my arms and on my back," she told the court

"I was in shock. I was soaked in petrol. He told me not to move or I was dead. He then reached into the kitchen and grabbed a cigarette lighter.

"He grabbed my T-shirt and pulled it out of my shorts and ignited the cigarette lighter. He ignited the flame on my T-shirt and I went up in fire. I heard him yell 'What have I done?' I turned my back to him and ran away and dived on to the concrete to try to smother the flames."

Mrs Withers spent two months in hospital suffering from third-degree burns to 60 per cent of her body. She said she needs to wear the body suit full time for the next two years to minimise scarring.

Mr Withers declined to tell his side of the story. His lawyer argued that there was no proof that he had intended to kill his wife when he set her on fire.