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Daughter tells of mum's fire horror

PUBLISHED: 01:10 01 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:27 03 March 2010

TANYA Abbott wiped away the tears today as she told a jury of her last conversation with her mother who was fatally burnt by her father.

The 19-year-old told jurors at Norwich Crown Court how her father Terence Abbott then arrived at her flat to confess setting light to Lorraine Baldwin.

TANYA Abbott wiped away the tears today as she told a jury of her last conversation with her mother who was fatally burnt by her father.

The 19-year-old told jurors at Norwich Crown Court how her father Terence Abbott then arrived at her flat to confess setting light to Lorraine Baldwin.

Abbott, 52, of Speedwell Road, Ipswich denies murder on May 15, last year.

Mrs Baldwin, 42, died at Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford, as a result of burns to 75 per cent of her body.

Ms Abbott told the court her mother had arranged to pick her up on April 19 but then changed the plan, to see her later in the day.

Ms Abbott told the court Abbott arrived in her flat in Heatherhayes, Ipswich, on April 19 where she was with her boyfriend Robert Crawford and brother Travis at about 3pm, but soon left to go home because he had arranged for council workers to visit.

He returned to Tanya's flat 45 minutes later telling his daughter: "I have done what I said I was going to do'.

Ms Abbott continued: "I said 'What's that?' He said something about 'you're not thick you should know'. He told me he had set her alight."

The teenager said he had threatened to set fire to Mrs Baldwin when they split up two years ago.

She said she called her father an idiot and he replied to Travis "you can live where you want now because I'll be doing about 12 years."

Ms Abbott told the court her father had been wearing a baseball cap, his hair was "everywhere" and he smelt of petrol.

She phoned her mother's mobile phone and the hospital but her mother was not there. She then phoned her sister Tassi and then the hospital again where her mother had arrived.

Under cross-examination from Veronica Ramsey, defending Abbott, Ms Abbott said he had not been acting strangely on his first visit.

The court heard from Richard Noble, a self employed plasterer, who told the court he borrowed a petrol can from Abbott, a friend for 15 years, and returned it bone dry days before the incident.

Melanie Maguire told how she saw a dark car blocking Kestrel Road on April 19, when visiting her sister-in-law Dawn Maguire. She saw her children into the house and told Dawn to call the police because she had seen a man struggling in a garden and flames. She told the court the man then drove off past her, faster than normal.

Matthew Clayton told how he lives opposite, and saw a commotion from his bedroom window. He described a man and women as wrestling in the garden and another woman on fire. He raced downstairs to help and called the emergency services.

Mr Clayton's father Carl also ran out and kicked a burning red rag out from under a car.

Janet Dighton, whose house the attack happened at told the court: "As fast as we were putting the flames out they were alighting again. When we extinguished them all her clothes had gone."

She told how she fetched towels and burnt her hand.

Her husband Derek had arrived at the front door with his wife and described how he saw a ball of massive flames before Lorraine ran through their house.

Earlier the court heard how Lorraine's mother Maureen Baldwin pulled out clumps of Abbott's hair as she tried to stop him attacking and setting fire to her terrified daughter.

Mrs Baldwin said that 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 Posthouse 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 and uncle Mr and Mrs Dighton lives 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 Mrs Ramsey 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.

The trial continues.


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