Bishop Auckland man guilty over friend's fire suicide bid

A man who helped a suicidal friend set himself alight has been told he faces years behind bars.

Kevin Howe gave Stephen Walker a lighter and petrol at his home in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in May.

The 30-year-old suffered 90% burns to his body and remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Howe, 20, of Cheesmond Avenue, Bishop Auckland, was remanded in custody by the judge at Durham Crown Court to be sentenced on 4 October.

'Traumatic ordeal'

He was warned he faced "a number of years behind bars".

The trial heard the pair had been drinking vodka and lager on the Bank Holiday Sunday.

Mr Walker, who sometimes became suicidal when drunk, badgered Howe to buy petrol in a jerry can.

After handing it over, Howe was seen laughing as he left the house in Walker Drive, and said: "He's going to set himself on fire."

Howe denied a charge of assisted attempted suicide, saying first that he had bought the petrol for himself, and then that he got it for Mr Walker to use in a garden strimmer.

Speaking after the conviction, Elizabeth Reid, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The victim in this case was known to be suicidal.

"He had told people earlier that day that he intended to set himself alight and had made threats to commit suicide on many previous occasions.

"Kevin Howe was fully aware of these intentions when he bought the victim both petrol and a lighter, and he knew precisely how they would be used.

"He deliberately encouraged the victim, who was clearly vulnerable, to set himself alight in a horrific and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide.

Det Con Colin Howey, of Durham Police, said: "It has been a traumatic ordeal for the family and our thoughts have still to go to Stephen, who is on a long road to recovery.

"I have never dealt with a case like it in my 27 years' service."

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