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Court hears of fireball horror

PUBLISHED: 19:15 28 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:27 03 March 2010

A GREAT grandmother pulled out clumps of her daughter's ex-husband's hair as she tried to stop him attacking and setting fire to her terrified daughter.

A GREAT grandmother pulled out clumps of her daughter's ex-husband's hair as she tried to stop him attacking and setting fire to her terrified daughter.

Petite Maureen Baldwin couldn't hold back the tears, as she recalled looking up from the ground where she had fallen during the struggle, to see the flash of a red petrol can and her daughter Lorraine turning into a ball of flame.

The horrific image of Lorraine's body disintegrating among the flames haunts her every night, she told a jury at Norwich Crown Court.

Her former son-in-law Terence Abbott, 52, of Speedwell Road, Ipswich, denies murder, but admitted to one of his daughters that he set Lorraine on fire expecting the flames to go out.

The 42-year-old died in hospital nearly a month later as a result of burns to 75pc of her body after Abbott doused her in petrol and set her on fire.

Mrs Baldwin told the court yesterday that an angry Abbott burst into her home in Goldcrest Road, Ipswich, on April 19, last year, swearing and shouting "jumbled up words" at Lorraine after he saw another man kiss her goodnight.

The jury heard that Mrs Baldwin and her daughter had been on a family night out at the Locomotive Club in Station Street, Ipswich, on Easter Sunday, and later had been seen kissing a man.

The argument continued as mother and daughter left the house and Abbott followed.

Mrs Baldwin said they got into Lorraine's car and added: "She said she didn't know if he was angry about the kiss or her new job." The court heard that her daughter had been due to start a job as a barmaid at the town's former Post House Hotel.

"He took a red petrol can from the boot of his car and leant over the bonnet and shook it. He said: 'This is for you.'

"I felt frightened and I told Lorraine to lock the car and said 'Let's go.'"

They drove to Kestrel Road, where Lorraine's aunt Janet Dighton lives with her husband Derek, but Abbott pursued them.

Mrs Baldwin said Abbott parked alongside their vehicle so Lorraine had to climb out over the passenger seat.

She said: "The next thing I knew, he pushed me to one side and pushed my daughter up against a parked car.

"He hit and thumped her in the face several times. I grabbed hold of him and pulled his hair to try and get him off her.

"He pushed me away but I still hung on to his hair and we both ended up on the ground, with me on my back and him across the top of me.

"I tried to get up but he scrambled up first. My daughter was at the car. She looked dazed and didn't move. He then ran over to her and picked up the petrol can."

Mrs Baldwin broke down in tears as she said: "By the time I could get up all I could see was a ball of flame.

"I jumped up and saw his hand move. There was a flash of the can and my daughter went up in flames so quickly.

"I scrambled to my feet and ran to her, but she ran into my sister's house. My sister had come out and left the door open. I couldn't get close enough to her. I couldn't get my coat off quickly enough to put it round her."

She said the flames leapt more than three feet in the air and she saw the petrol can fly past her head.

She added: "I did catch a glimpse of Mr Abbott as my daughter was on fire, with his back to me … and he was running."

Lorraine ran into the tiny bathroom of her relative's home but Mrs Baldwin was beaten back by the flames as she tried to turn the shower taps on, so Lorraine fled into the kitchen and then the garden.

"I went behind her. I screamed at her not to go outside but she ran out. I screamed at her to lay down, as the ground was wet."

Mrs Baldwin ripped off her daughter's burning shoes and rolled her in puddles on the patio.

She said: "I just kept rolling her and screaming for towels and water. I extinguished the fire but one part of her leg was still burning. She said her leg hurt and it just melted through the skin. She was burnt all over. When I looked down all her clothes were burnt away. She asked me if her face was burnt."

Mrs Baldwin suffered burns to her hands and arms and was treated at Ipswich Hospital.

Her daughter was also initially taken to the hospital in Heath Road but was later transferred to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, with burns to 75pc of her body. She suffered multiple organ failure and died on May 15.

Under cross examination from Veronica Ramsey, representing Abbott, Mrs Baldwin admitted Lorraine had recently lived with her ex husband but said: "I don't think she intended to stay as long as she did."

Mrs Ramsey suggested the kiss at the Locomotive Club was passionate and on the lips, which Mrs Baldwin denied.

Mrs Ramsey said the situation couldn't have been desperate as they had not driven straight to the police station.

But Mrs Baldwin said: "It seemed desperate, but the police didn't come into it. We just wanted to get to somewhere safe."

Mrs Ramsey said Mrs Baldwin pulled out clumps of Abbott's hair, and added: "It must have been like being in a nightmare."

Mrs Baldwin said: "It is not a nightmare but I think about it every night."

The court heard Abbott had threatened to set Lorraine on fire, months before he doused her in petrol.

Jurors heard through headphones a taped telephone call, where he threatened to burn his former wife.

Stephen Jolly - who had an eight month relationship with Lorraine - told of two calls at his home in August 2000 but only the second one was taped.

In the first, Lorraine was told: "If you come outside you old dog, I'll set light to you", Jolly told the jury.

He added: "I think she was worried, but she didn't show it."

He urged Lorraine to ring Abbott back to get the words on tape and the cassette was found among Lorraine's possession after her death.

On the tape played to the jury Lorraine was heard saying: "Don't upset me. Don't threaten me Terry."

She added: "I haven't been with you. I ain't with no-one."

Mrs Ramsey asked Mr Jolly if he had ever heard the names of five "gentlemen friends" of Lorraine, and he said he hadn't.

Anne Hartwig, who knew the couple for 15 years, described Abbott as "jealous and possessive".

"He followed her about a lot .... he wouldn't leave her alone," said the mother of five, who babysat for the pair.

She told the court that on more than one occasion he said if he couldn't have her he didn't want anyone else to have her.

When Abbott heard his former wife had breast cancer his response was: "I hope it kills her" and laughed, said Ms Hartwig.

She described Lorraine as a fun loving and happy person and described the couple's marriage as stormy.

"He [Terry] loved her, but hated her," said Ms Hartwig.

The pair divorced in 1999 and Abbott gained custody of the couple's four children, although they got back together in late 2000, and Lorraine moved back in early 2001.

The trial continues today.

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