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Husband who used white spirit to burn wife to death after 'trivial and absurd' row over his Christmas presents is jailed for eight years55-year-old had
denied murdering his wife but was found guilty
of manslaughter by a jury Angry husband splashed white spirit over wife's nightdress and flicked open a cigarette lighterShe died in hospital four days later from the effects of the burns and inhaling fumes
22:31 GMT, 14 December 2012
A husband who killed his wife by pouring white spirit over her and setting her alight following a 'trivial and absurd' row over his Christmas presents has been jailed for eight years.
Following the argument, out-of-work joiner Stephen Eastwood, 55, packed a holdall with clothes which his librarian wife Angela, 56, had given him for Christmas and threatened to stay with relatives.
But after she snatched the bag back and emptied the clothes out, Eastwood went to the couple's garage in a rage and got a bottle of white spirit.
Horrific: Stephen Eastwood has been jailed today for 8 years for the manslaughter of his wife Angela Eastwood
He then splashed some over her nightdress to scare her as he flicked open a cigarette lighter.
But he got too close and her clothes caught fire with Mrs Eastwood suffering 15 per cent burns to her upper chest, neck and face. She died in hospital four days later from the effects of the burns and inhaling fumes.
Eastwood, of, Thurcroft, Rotherham had denied murdering his wife on December 31 last year but was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court.
He wept into his handkerchief with relief after the jury delivered their verdict.
Jailing him, Mr Justice Openshaw said he had not intended the outcome but 'pouring the spirit over her was an abusive act with reckless disregard for her safety.'
The couple, who celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary last Christmas Eve, were under stress because Eastwood was out-of-work and struggling to find a job but were otherwise generally happy.
Eastwood claimed his wife went up in flames accidentally because she was holding a lit cigarette as he splashed her clothes with the liquid but scientific evidence showed a lit cigarette would not ignite white spirit vapours.
Eastwood had denied murdering his wife on December 31 last year but was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court
The prosecution had argued he deliberately ignited a naked flame and intended to set fire to her clothes and therefore cause her serious injury if not kill her.
The couple visited Mrs Eastwood’s sister Jennifer Scott on Boxing Day last year. Eastwood told police he argued with his wife on the way home and he slept on the sofa overnight. The next day he took her car keys as she had been drinking and went out to a nearby shopping centre.
He returned home at teatime and Mrs Eastwood suffered her fatal injuries about 5.30pm. The couple initially did not realise how serious the burns were and it was only half an hour later that Mr Eastwood took his wife to Rotherham District Hospital. She was transferred to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital where she died on New Year’s Eve last year.
Eastwood gave several different versions to hospital staff and the police about what happened.
Scene of crime: This is the home in Rotherham, South Yorkshire where Stephen and Angela Eastwood lived
He initially claimed his wife had been using white spirit and lit a cigarette then said it was 'all his fault' as they had argued when his wife would not let him have his clothes and he poured white spirit on her and she 'lit a cigarette and caught fire.'
He also said it was he who intended to burn the clothes and his wife was smoking and 'she just went up.'
Eastwood told the court he had a 'loving relationship' with his wife but after they had rowed she packed a holdall with his old working clothes.
As the argument escalated he went upstairs and repacked it with new clothes Angela had bought him for Christmas. He met his wife at the front door and she took the clothes out of the holdall one by one.
The judge said: 'According to him she accused him quite wrongly I’m sure of leaving her for some other woman. This trivial and absurd argument set the scene for what followed.”
Eastwood had intended to burn the clothes which in itself was a 'remarkably stupid and dangerous thing to do.' There was a struggle as his wife intervened and Eastwood 'either threw or poured some of the white spirit on her.'
The judge added: 'It is clear that the defendant must have struck the light which started the fire presumably using a disposable lighter because his wife was a regular smoker.
'I’m sure having struck the light he did not intend her to catch fire and did not intend the result. He attempted to scare her and held a naked flame close to her which ignited the white spirit on her dressing gown.'