Man sets fire to ex wife, court told

JEALOUSY drove an Ipswich dad to douse his ex-wife in petrol and set her on fire then immediately confess the crime to their daughters, a court heard today.

By Tracey Sparling

JEALOUSY drove an Ipswich dad to douse his ex-wife in petrol and set her on fire then immediately confess the crime to their daughters, a court heard today.

Mum-of-four Lorraine Baldwin desperately tried to put the flames engulfing her body out by rolling in puddles the jury heard as her estranged husband's murder trial began at Norwich Crown Court.

The 42-year-old died in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford nearly a month after Terence Abbott allegedly attacked her in Kestrel Road, Ipswich on April 19 last year. She died as a result of burns, which destroyed the skin on 75 per cent of her body.

Abbott, 52, of Speedwell Road, denies murder.

Prosecutor David Farrell QC said at 4pm on April 19 Abbott arrived at his daughter's home in Ipswich and told her "I have done what I said I was going to do. I have set her alight."

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Mr Farrell said: "At this time as the defendant was telling his daughter what he had done, his ex wife Lorraine Baldwin was being rushed to hospital with 75 per cent burns as a result of him deliberately pouring petrol over her then setting her alight."

Mr Farrell said leading up to her death Abbott seen Lorraine leaving the Locomotive Club in Ipswich with family, and kissing another man goodnight on Easter Sunday, April 15,.

It caused an argument and Lorraine moved in with her mother Maureen Baldwin in Goldcrest Road the next day.

But on April 19 Abbott burst into the kitchen, angry that she had been avoiding him and started arguing about the kiss he had seen, and her intentions to start a new job as a barmaid.

Lorraine and her mother left the house and got into Lorraine's car to go and pick up Tanya. Mr Farrell said: "The defendant went to the boot of his car and removed a red petrol can. He waved it in the air and shouted towards Lorraine 'you know what this is for'. That was an obvious reference to his previous threats but he told the police he wanted to frighten her."

Mr Farrell said Lorraine drove off but Abbott followed in his car, driving so close that their bumpers almost touched. He said Lorraine was terrified and drove to her aunt and uncle's house in Kestrel Road about half a mile away.

Abbott parked his car blocking the driver's door so she had to climb out over the passenger seat, and Abbott then attacked her. Mrs Baldwin tried to intervene and there was a struggle but Abbott got free and then poured petrol from the can over Lorraine.

Mr Farrell said: "He then set her alight with a lighter. Lorraine's clothing burst into flames, she started to scream."

Lorraine's aunt and uncle ran out of the house and Abbott threw the petrol can against a wall and made his escape.

Mr Farrell said: "Lorraine was on fire. The front door was open and she ran inside into the bathroom shouting 'put me in the shower', but the flames were such that no one could get near to her.

"In panic, she ran through the house into the garden where she rolled in puddles while water and towels were brought from the house.

"Burnt clothing fell off on route and left fragments on the floor of the conservatory."

Mr Farrell said a neighbour living opposite had witnessed part of the incident and the emergency services were called.

Lorraine was taken to Ipswich Hospital at 3.55pm suffering from extensive burns to her face, trunk, upper limbs, right lower limbs and left thigh, then transferred to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

Mr Farrell said: "Seventy-five per cent of her body had been burned right through the skin and despite two operations in intensive care she died on May 15 as a result of multiple organ failure – a direct result of severe burns."

He said: "The defendant had driven straight to Tassi's home, then Tanya's and at Tanya's he confessed what he had done. He said 'I have done what I said I was going to do. I have set her alight' he smelled of petrol."

Mr Farrell said Abbott gave himself up to the police later that night. He admitted when interviewed, pouring petrol over Lorraine and setting her alight, but said he had expected the flames to go 'whoosh' and then go out. He had only wanted to talk to her, and had carried the petrol in his car intending to use it in another car.

Mr Farrell said: "The defendant said he just lost it when she sneered at him outside her aunt's house. The defendant was determined to control his ex-wife. He had threatened in the past to burn her and when she just walked away from him that afternoon he did as he had threatened.

"He had intended to cause her at the very least really serious bodily harm and in doing so he is guilty of murder.

"This was not a sudden temporary loss of control. He knew what he was doing."

Mr Farrell told the court that Abbott met Lorraine Baldwin in August 1978, they married in November 1980 and had four children, Tanya, 19, Tassi, 18, Travis, 13, Tara 8.

He said: "Their marriage was a stormy one. There were incidents of violence and there were separations and in 1999 they divorced."

Lorraine left the marital home and Abbott gained custody of the four children, and the couple got back together in late 2000 and Lorraine moved back in early 2001.

Mr Farrell said: "It is clear from the evidence that this defendant constantly suspected or believed that Lorraine was being unfaithful to him. His mistrust of her was a mistrust which developed into possessiveness.

"His demands for sexual intercourse were refused while he believed that she was satisfying other men. He was obsessive.

"He said if he could not have her then nobody else could. Several witnesses will give evidence of his threats to set fire to Lorraine and one such threat was recorded on tape.

"While such threats were not taken seriously at the time they did reflect his intentions."

The trial continues.