Man who set fire to wife appeals severity of sentence

A PINE Creek man who was jailed for 16 years for covering his former wife in fuel and setting her on fire has appealed the severity of his sentence.

Jason Christopher John, 46, pleaded not guilty in Bundaberg Supreme Court last year to alternative charges of attempted murder or intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He was found guilty of attempted murder and was declared a serious violent offender, which means he must serve at least 80% of his sentence.

John's barrister Carl Heaton argued in the Queensland Court of Appeal on Wednesday (Feb 05) the version of events surrounding the incident could have been distorted as both parties were extremely intoxicated at the time of the incident in 2011 - something which was not addressed at the initial trial.

"You would think if someone was doused in petrol as they claimed there would be evidence of it," he said.

"There was no evidence she was doused in petrol at all after scientific examination.

"There were microscopic traces of petrol on her clothing, but they both lived in a rural setting where they were in contact with machinery on a daily basis."

During his trial the court was told John broke off an outside home gas supply cylinder, brought it into the couple's bedroom and opened the valve, dousing the woman in liquid petroleum.

However, a crucial part of the prosecution's case was an almost-seven-minute-long 000 call between a police officer and the victim.

At the start of the conversation the woman is heard telling the officer she fears her husband will kill himself.

John could be heard in the background yelling before the phone call ended with a click, believed to be the sound of the cigarette lighter, followed by terrified screams as the cylinder exploded.

Mr Heaton further argued there was serious doubt as to whether John was the person who actually lit the cigarette lighter.

"There was evidence at the trial, which was accepted, that they we both in different parts of the house towards the end of the 000 call," he said.

"The sound of the cigarette lighter being flicked can be clearly heard on the recording towards the end of the call.

"It is accepted John was not in the same room at this stage.

"For the lighter flicking to have been clearly heard on the recording it could have only come for the person making the call.

"Maybe the level of intoxication played a part. Why would the caller flick a cigarette lighter to smoke a cigarette knowing there was gas in the room and especially after claiming to have been doused in fuel."

The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

Topics:  court of appeals

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