Man who supplied petrol used in suicide bid claims he bought it for strimmer (From The Northern Echo)
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Bishop Auckland man who supplied petrol used in suicide bid claims he bought it for strimmer
A MAN accused of supplying a friend with petrol and a lighter shortly before he set himself on fire, admitted changing his account of the lead up to the incident.
Kevin James Howe bought almost three litres of unleaded fuel and the lighter at a filling station at Cockton Hill Road, Bishop Auckland, at 7.22pm on Sunday May 26.
Durham Crown Court heard he then returned to the home of friend Stephen Walker, in Walker Drive, Bishop Auckland, where the pair had been drinking heavily for much of the day.
Witnesses subsequently reported seeing Mr Walker pouring petrol over himself, flicking a lighter on and off, before, a “boom” was reported coming from the house and he staggered into the garden engulfed in flames, at about 8pm.
Neighbour Lee Banks rushed to throw wet clothing over Mr Walker, joined by another nearby resident and the emergency services.
They put out the flames, but Mr Walker was taken to hospital in a critical condition suffering more than 90-per cent burns.
He remains in intensive care in the burns department at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary where he requires further surgery, with a constant risk of fatal infection.
Mr Howe, 20, of Cheesmond Avenue, Bishop Auckland, denies doing an act assisting or encouraging a suicide or attempted suicide.
The court heard that 30-year-old Mr Walker has a history of making suicide threats, but some local people believed it was “attention seeking” on his behalf.
When accused of supplying the petrol, Mr Howe initially claimed he filled a canister with water not wanting Mr Walker to have access to petrol.
But, after evidence emerged of his trip to the filling station, he changed his account in his defence statement, submitted to the court last month.
Mark McKone, prosecuting, read from the statement, in which Mr Howe claimed Mr Walker had, “gone on and on about getting petrol".
The statement continued: “He had been talking about wanting to die, but that’s how he is.”
Giving evidence, today, however, Mr Howe said Mr Walker had been “happy as Larry” most of that day.
He said he bought the fuel for Mr Walker, as he does odd jobs, including cutting neighbours’ grass using a petrol-driven strimmer.
Mr McKone asked Mr Howe: “Why didn’t you take the petrol back to your house for safe-keeping overnight?”
Witness Lee Banks
Mr Howe said: “I was drunk. It would have been the best thing to do if I was as sober as a judge.”
He said when he left the house at about 7.45pm he believed Mr Walker was about to go to sleep on the couch.
The trial continues tomorrow (Wednesday September 11).