‘Arrogant and evil’ ex-lovers set ‘friend’ on fire and punched him as he burned

An "arrogant and evil" former couple set their friend on fire twice and started punching him as he tried to put out the flames.

Jane Reilly and Alan Archer doused their unnamed victim in petrol and set him alight twice before Archer began hitting him when he tried to remove his shirt that was ablaze.

The pair were spotted filling a five-litre petrol can at a BP garage in London Road, Southend, in the early hours of October 30, 2019 before CCTV captured the sick attack.

The victim suffered burns to 60% of his body and four toes had to be amputated because of nerve damage to his feet.

Basildon Crown Court heard how, after buying the can of petrol, Archer had called the victim and asked where he was, confirming via the victim's girlfriend they were at a house in Southchurch Avenue in the town.

Judge Samantha Leigh said their decision to kill because the man had pawned a watch given to him by Reilly "beggars belief".

“Archer, you were homeless, and you knew other men from being homeless and knew the victim as well," she said.

“You started up a relationship with Jane Reilly and worked in her pie and mash shop in Southend.

“The victim also worked in the pie and mash shop in an effort to stop drinking. At some point he was given a cheap watch, no more than a few pounds, by Reilly.

“He moved out and said he wouldn’t be working for Reilly anymore.

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“Reilly was unhappy about the watch being pawned. It was described as a watch that was very, very cheap that you had got from the market. Whatever it was, it was worth no more than a few pounds.”

Archer and Reilly arrived at the property with the petrol can shortly before 1.30am.

“Reilly, you threw something at him and Archer you poured petrol over him," the judge said.

“He turns to run but he’s not free to do so. Archer is then seen to lean in and light him, Reilly also leans in at the same time.

“He then runs to the grass area trying to remove his T-shirt, he threw himself on the floor trying to put the flames out, a perfectly normal reaction. Archer attacks him by punching him.

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“Reilly, having followed can in hand, we saw a flash.

“In my view this is not a re-ignition and I am satisfied there was a second ignition.”

The court heard how Reilly and Archer then drove off, but returned when the emergency services were at the scene to ask if his girlfriend, who witnessed the attack, was ok.

“The sheer arrogance of that move shows that the attack was evil and an arranged plan to set fire to him," the judge said.

“There was some morbid fascination to circle around the area and ask the victim’s girlfriend if she was alright. It beggar’s belief.”

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The judge added that there was “no other description for someone to have petrol poured on them” than attempted murder, saying the victim “was completely innocent”.

She said their actions after the attack were “unpalatable”.

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Judge Leigh said: “The evidence you gave that you couldn’t see the monitor was a performance worthy of an Oscar, but it was dishonest.

“In my view I have seen no remorse from either of you at all. He was a friend, and he was repaid by being set alight.”

The duo, who denied the attempted murder charge, were jailed for 24 years each yesterday following a three-week trial.

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