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Bishop Auckland man accused of supplying petrol used in suicide bid admits lying to police
A MAN accused of supplying petrol and a lighter to a friend who set himself alight admitted telling police lies when interviewed the following day.
But Kevin James Howe conceded it was “the worst mistake” he had ever made to leave petrol with Stewart Walker, a man who had made previous suicide threats, with whom he had been drinking heavily all day.
Mr Howe told Durham Crown Court he was still in shock when questioned by police the day after friend Stephen Walker emerged from his house, in Walker Drive, Bishop Auckland, engulfed in flames, on May 26.
Thirty-year-old Mr Walker suffered 90-per cent burns and was in a critical condition when taken to hospital, where he remains in intensive care, still requiring operations, at risk of death from infection.
Mr Howe, 20, of Cheesmond Avenue, Bishop Auckland, denies a charge of assisting or encouraging a person to commit, or attempt to commit suicide.
He bought £4 worth of unleaded petrol and a lighter at a filling station in Cockton Hill, Bishop Auckland, at 7.22pm that day, little more than half-an-hour before Mr Walker set himself alight.
In interview the following day he told police Mr Walker was pestering him to buy petrol, but, knowing “what he was like”, he said he filled a petrol can with water.
He told police Mr Walker was so drunk he was unaware it was not petrol and poured it over himself.
Mr Howe claimed the petrol he did buy, in another canister from Mr Walker’s house, was to power a strimmer to cut his grass as he feared eviction from his home due to the state of the garden.
But he later changed his account, saying when he bought the petrol he believed it was for Mr Walker to use to do odd jobs, including gardening at other people’s homes.
He said it was put under the stairs and when he left a short time later Mr Walker appeared to be falling asleep on the couch.
Mr Howe said he bought the lighter as both he and Mr Walker smoked joints after drinking.
Other witnesses who went to the house shortly after Mr Howe left, described seeing Mr Walker dripping with petrol threatening to ignite it, minutes before he actually carried out the deed.
Asked by prosecutor Mark McKone why he left petrol with a man with Mr Walker’s history, in such a drunken state, Mr Howe said: “I didn’t think he was going to do what he did.
“It was the worst mistake of my life.
“I wish I had never started drinking that morning.”
Closing speeches and summing up in the case will take place tomorrow (Thursday September 12) before the jury retires to consider its verdict.
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