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Reservoir Dogs-inspired killer jailed for setting partner on fire who took 21 years to die

A Reservoir-Dogs-inspired killer has been jailed for life for murdering his partner who died 21 years after he set her on fire.

Steven Craig, 58, inflicted horrendous injuries on Jacqueline Kirk when he doused her in petrol and set her alight in a car park in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in April 1998.

He returned to the dock at Bristol Crown Court today where the judge sentenced him to a mandatory life term with a minimum of 15 years.

He was previously convicted of grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to the attack, and handed a discretionary life sentence with a minimum term of nine years for that and two other offences.

Craig served over 15 years in prison but was arrested and charged with murder in June 2021 after Ms Kirk’s death aged 61 in August 2019.

A jury at Bristol Crown Court unanimously convicted Craig of the charge last month, finding the injuries caused by him – including burns to 35 per cent of Ms Kirk’s body – were linked to her dying from a ruptured diaphragm.

Craig had soaked Kirk in petrol and set a lighter to her in an imitation of the torture scene in Quentin Tarantino’s 1991 movie, that she said he had “fantasised” about.

Ms Kirk was in hospital for nine months after the attack and required 14 operations, including a tracheotomy and skin grafts.

She survived for 21 years and was able to see both of her children get married, and become a grandmother.

In August 2019, she was taken to the Royal United Hospital in Bath and died the next day.

Jailing him today, Mrs Justice Mary Elizabeth Stacey told him he was fully culpable for her death.

She said he had “repeatedly watched” the scene from Reservoir Dogs and had a “permanent grin” when doing so, adding: “You liked acting like the character in the film.”

The judge said Craig had “planned to do really serious harm to her on that trip.”

The court heard he had ordered her to pass her a coke bottle full of petrol and bend her head over before petrol was poured over her head and neck.

They both got out of the car and then she was set alight.

The judge added: “She was truly frightened and had petrol all over her. You lit the lighter and she saw the lighter flame going across her face. She could fell her arms on fire and the pain from burning.

“You did not help her or call for help. Her injuries were life threatening and life changing. It was not clear she would survive.

“You intended to inflict really serious violence and cause Jackie really serious harm – it was a planned and pre-meditated attack.

“There is no doubt you planned to engage in a gratuitous, deliberate and monstrous attack on Jackie with whatever means at your disposal.”

The judge said among the aggravating factors was the “level of sadism and extreme nature of attack.”

“It was just so callous and just so brutal,” she added.

She paid tribute to what a “remarkable and impression woman” Jackie was for “making the best of her life in the 21 years after the attack”, and to her two children for the “bravery” they showed.

Craig was already subject to a life sentence when he was filmed on police body cam footage being arrested for Jacqueline’s murder after being convicted of GBH with intent in 2000 for the original attack.

During the trial, prosecutor Richard Smith QC told the jury injuries inflicted during the attack were a “significant” cause of her subsequent death in August 2019.

The court heard the burns and scarring on her body meant that when her intestines swelled the rest of body could not adequately expand.

This caused her diaphragm to rupture and she died at the age of 62.

And without the scarring and burns she suffered as a result of the attack, Mr Smith argued that doctors would have operated on her to repair the rupture and saved her life.

During today’s sentencing hearing, Mr Smith outlined more details of the original attack that hadn’t been heard by the jury during the trial.

He said: “She was frightened of the defendant and it seems with good cause – he was controlling of her.

“On one occasion he had entered her bedroom with a can of petrol which he proceeded to pour over her and her bed and threatened he would set it alight.

“He repeatedly watched a scene from a film – which appeared to be the film Reservoir Dogs in which a man was tortured in a chair before being set alight with petrol.

“Jackie recalled the grin of the defendant’s face as he watched this film and considered him to have a fixation about fires.”

On the day of the attack, he “chillingly” told her she would have to “leave town for a few days” as “I have arranged to have you killed and it is too late to stop it.”

Mr Smith added: “Jackie told the police she hadn’t believed the threats but remained very scared as she was aware of his capacity for violence.

“Having set off the defendant stopped at a petrol station and filled an empty coke bottle with petrol – this he later used to douse the victim with petrol.

“The defendant expressed his anger at one or more of Jackie’s previous boyfriends – he declared he was going to torture Jackie. Jackie prepared for what she anticipated to be a beating and had her head bent over in the car front passenger seat.

“It was at that point she felt the petrol being poured over her head and neck.”

Both the victim and defendant then got out of the car.

Mr Smith added: “The defendant was holding a cigarette and suggested Jackie might have one as it might be her last.

“It was at that point she was aware he had a lighter in hand. Jackie recall the lighter flame going across her face as she was ignited.

“She was shouting out ‘help me’ and police paramedics came to assist.”

Jackie’s next recollection was waking up in hospital but only had the “courage” to make a police complaint after learning about a second victim.

Victim impact statements were also read to the court from her children Sonna and Shane.

Speaking after the case, Ms Kirk’s daughter, Sonna, didn’t (who didn’t want to give her surname) paid tribute to her mother’s bravery in living with the injuries she sustained.

She said: “She found it very hard because she couldn’t get people to understand what she was saying because the tracheostomy made it very hard for her voice to be heard.

“But she still made a big point of making her voice heard as much as she could.

“She survived and she wasn’t meant to survive.

“And then she wasn’t meant to recover and when we didn’t think she was ever going to come out of the coma they put her in, we just assumed that was going to be the last days of her life.

“But day by day went and after a month, they brought her out of the coma and she had to face god knows how many challenges and how many operations and the fact she had no voice and she was really weak and she was confined to this room in hospital.

“But she kept on going and she was determined to be herself again.”