Kevin Howe jailed over friend Stephen Walker's suicide bid

Kevin Howe Kevin Howe should have supported his friend, the judge said

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A man who helped his suicidal friend set fire to himself has been jailed for 12 years.

Kevin Howe gave Stephen Walker a lighter and petrol at his home in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in May.

Mr Walker, 30, suffered 90% burns to his body and is still in hospital, despite undergoing numerous operations.

Durham Crown Court was told Howe, 20, of Cheesmond Avenue, Bishop Auckland, "took some delight" in knowing what Mr Walker was about to do.

Howe had denied a charge of assisted attempted suicide, saying first that he had bought the petrol for himself, and then that he got it for Mr Walker to use in a garden strimmer.

But he was found guilty after a trial in July.

The trial heard the pair had been drinking vodka and lager on 26 May.

Mr Walker, who sometimes became suicidal when drunk, badgered Howe to buy petrol.

'Cruel and shocking'

Mr Walker then poured the petrol over his head and began flicking the lighter, causing fumes to ignite.

Moments earlier Howe was seen laughing as he left the house in Walker Drive, and said: "He's going to set himself on fire."

Judge Christopher Prince, sentencing Howe, said: "He [Mr Walker] would not have suffered these injuries had it not been for your actions."

One witness reported flames 1ft (30cm) above Mr Walker's head, while another said he was unrecognisable because the fire had engulfed him.

Neighbours tried to put out the fire with wet clothes and a passing police officer helped before paramedics arrived.

The judge told Howe: "Had you felt any compassion towards Stephen, you would not only have refused to go, you might have offered him some support and comfort for the dark mood that he had entered.

"Perhaps what is most cruel and shocking is that you appear to have taken some delight in what was to occur after you left.

"At that point, in my view, you had no doubt that Stephen was going to go through with it and you did nothing."

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