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An autistic teenager died after being covered in self-tanning oil and set alight during drunken “horseplay” at his 18th birthday party, a UK court heard.
Steven Simpson, who suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a speech impairment and epilepsy, died from horrific burns the next day.
The court heard that as Simpson became increasingly drunk at his party he was dared to strip to his boxer shorts.
Defendant Jordan Sheard, 20, who had gatecrashed the house party, was seen taunting the host, who was openly gay, and then scrawling obscene and homophobic insults on his bare stomach, face and forearm.
Sarah Wright, prosecuting, said “it was described as good-natured fun” but in reality was “cruel behaviour” to someone who was “vulnerable and an easy target”.
After 2am a partygoer took the tanning oil from Simpson’s bedroom and, as it was poured over him, others chanted: “Light it, light it.” Wright said: “Steven did not object; he seemed to be enjoying the situation.”
But the court heard that Sheard then held a cigarette lighter to Simpson’s groin, and instantly the highly flammable liquid caught alight and flames engulfed his body.
Instead of putting out the fire, Sheard ran away. The court was told that neighbour Sean Banner was the only person who helped Simpson, and burned himself extinguishing the flames. Simpson died in hospital from 60 percent burns the next day.
Sheard, who initially tried to blame the college student for setting himself alight, eventually admitted manslaughter and was jailed for three-and-a-half years at Sheffield Crown Court on Thursday.
Passing sentence, Judge Roger Keen told Sheard that the evening had involved “good-natured horseplay” but that putting a flame to a man doused in flammable fluid was “a highly dangerous act”.
He also regarded the decision to run away as “serious aggravation” in setting the jail term.
Wright said Sheard only vaguely knew Simpson but was allowed into the party in Barnsley, Yorkshire, last June with two friends anyway. She said that despite Simpson’s learning difficulties, he was sociable and had lots of friends.
Andrew Smith, defending, said the incident was a “criminally stupid prank that went wrong in a bad way”.
He added that the defendant had been “deeply and significantly affected by what he has done and the tragic consequences that ensued from it”. - Daily Mail