A woman who almost died when her ex-boyfriend poured petrol over her and set her on fire today told of her horrific ordeal.
Violent Damion Sheldon will be behind bars for years for setting ex-girlfriend Louise Pilkington on fire in an attack fuelled by petrol and motivated by revenge after she walked out on him.
But such are the mental scars inflicted in the terrifying ordeal Miss Pilkington is already saving up to leave for a safe haven, far away from her roots in the Midlands.
She reveals her plans today in an interview with the Express & Star in which she tells how love blossomed with Sheldon before his violent temper drove her away.
The mother of two went on a first date with Sheldon at the Stag and Three Horseshoes in Halesowen, and before long she was in love and inviting him round to stay at her house in Rowley Regis at weekends.
The first signs of trouble came when Sheldon became violent towards her – and after headbutting her an argument, she told him he could no longer come round to her home.
Tired of the abuse she received from her violent partner, Miss Pilkington called time on their nine-month relationship in December last year – but Sheldon would not give up and continually tried to call her.
And it was after she ignored his advances in Blackheath town centre days later that Sheldon snapped, turning up later at her Haden Walk home drunk and armed with a petrol can. Before taking his revenge, the spurned lover sent a text which said ‘Thank you love, you have destroyed me’.
Miss Pilkington today told how she was confronted by drunken Sheldon on her doorstep. She said: “It was about five to one, I heard my dog Jess barking and I knew straight away it would be Damion.
“I saw I had a missed call from him and got up and went downstairs to tell him to go away – but when I reached the bottom I saw the petrol, I thought ‘Oh my god’.
“He was standing there when I opened the door, he grabbed hold of my arm and shoulder, then poured the petrol over my head – the next thing I knew was I was on fire.”
Miss Pilkington screamed and rolled around on her front garden to put the flames out – she then looked round and saw her house, which had a 13-month-old baby inside, glowing in flames.
Neighbours sprang to action and tried to get in through the front and back doors before getting a ladder to the baby’s bedroom and smashing the window – but could not get inside because of the heat.
Minutes later, fire crews arrived and braved the burning house to get upstairs and pull the unconscious baby to safety. Another girl, aged nine, also escaped the house unhurt.
Sheldon fled the scene, but was later arrested and charged with attempted murder and arson. Last month the 42-year-old, of Russells Hall Road in Dudley, was jailed for 19 years.
Miss Pilkington spent three weeks in hospital, being treated for burns to her face, back and arms.
She has had skin taken from her back and grafted onto her face to help the healing. Following her return to home, she threw out all the pictures she had of Sheldon. “I just hate him. He makes me sick looking at his picture in the newspaper – I wish I had listened to my first instinct. I want to move away, I’m starting to save up to go.”
She added: “I’d urge women to get out of violent relationships.”
Miss Pilkington grew up in Penn before moving to Tividale and attending Tividale Comprehensive. She moved to Rowley Regis aged 18 and has two children from a previous relationship.
She previously worked as a care assistant at Allenbrook Nursing Home in Halesowen.
Miss Pilkington thanked the police and community for donations of furniture, carpets and toys for her children following the move to her new home.