An horrific crime committed out of pure malice – detectives today described the horror of a woman being set alight in her Black Country home, as they released pictures of the scene after the attack.
Damion Sheldon was today starting a 19-year jail sentence for the terrifying attack on his ex-partner Louise Pilkington at her own home.
He had gone to her house in Rowley Regis, pouring petrol through the letter box and setting her alight, turning her into a ‘human fireball’, while two children were inside.
Jilted Sheldon had been out drinking to celebrate his birthday before the attack and had consumed almost three litres of cider, vodka and a few pints of lager, before going to the house in Haden Walk and dousing his ex with the fuel.
In desperation after being set alight Miss Pilkington took off her burning clothes and rolled around her front lawn, with help from a nine-year-old girl who had been in the house – before the flames then spread inside.
Three men tried to break in the front door and then use a ladder to get to a 13-month-old child who was inside – and they were soon joined by firefighters who smashed through the back door and rescued the baby.
The baby was revived by firemen outside.
Yesterday, Judge John Watner said it was ‘pure chance’ the woman and two children did not die in the attack on December 2.
Today, Detective Constable Andy Barnsley said: “This was an horrific crime committed out of pure malice at having been jilted by his partner.
“It is a measure of Sheldon’s character that he went to set fire to his ex-partner’s home in the dead of night and when disturbed by the woman, he doused her in petrol and set fire to her.
“But this horror wasn’t enough for Sheldon who then coolly walked into the house and set fire to the house, where a baby was sleeping.
“Like a coward he then ran off in an attempt to evade justice and when captured, tried to deny any knowledge of the offence blaming his actions on alcohol. It is thanks to the woman’s quick thinking, the girl’s help and the actions of neighbours and the emergency services that this was prevented from becoming a tragedy.
“I am satisfied that the courts realised the sickening nature of Sheldon’s crime and have handed down a fitting sentence.
“I am certain that this will come as some comfort to all those affected by the fire.”
The jury took under four hours to find Sheldon guilty of attempted murder. The 42-year-old, of Russells Hall Road, Dudley, had denied attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether the life of the 13-month-old baby was endangered.
He was jailed for 15 years for the attempted murder and four years for the arson charge.
Miss Pilkington suffered burns to 15 to 16 per cent of her body, needing skin grafts and causing scarring on her arms. She told the jury during the trial that the pain was ‘like I’d never felt before’.
Judge John Warner said Sheldon had planned to set to fire to the house and told him: “This was not a case of attempted murder which sometimes happens purely spontaneously in the course of an argument when someone picks up a weapon.”
He said that it was ‘pure chance’ the consequences of the attack were not more serious.