Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Teenage fire killer gets 21 years for murder

Stewart Blackburn and Jessica McCagh
Stewart Blackburn killed Jessica McCagh at their flat in April

A teenager who killed his girlfriend by dousing her in petrol and setting her alight will serve at least 21 years behind bars.

Stewart Blackburn, 18, was convicted in December after a 10-day trial.

His girlfriend Jessica McCagh, 17, died on 25 April after the attack at the Arbroath flat they shared.

Judge Lord Bracadale, who imposed a life sentence with a minimum term of 21 years, said Jessica had suffered a "terrible death" at Blackburn's hands.

The judge told the High Court in Edinburgh the evidence had shown there were three stages to the murder.

"First, you threw petrol over her. Then you set fire to her," he said.

Life should be life. I hope he doesn't get out.
Jessica's father Garry McCagh

"Once she was alight you did something of quite extraordinary cruelty: you held the door of the bedroom shut to prevent her escape.

"Jessica McCagh was your girlfriend, aged 17 years, and she died a terrible death at your hands."

Jessica's father said he was happy with the 21-year minimum sentence but added that he hoped Blackburn would never be freed from custody.

Speaking outside court, Garry McCagh said: "Life should be life. I hope he doesn't get out. I hope they just keep him in."

Surrounded by his wife and family, he paid tribute to his "precious daughter", saying: "She was a lovely wee lassie, we're going to miss her very, very, very much. We'll never forget her."

The court heard Blackburn had earlier threatened to burn Jessica's parents' house using petrol, and that he had convictions for assault and a history of violence as a child.

Murder scene
Blackburn returned to the burning flat to save his dogs

He also admitted to a social worker preparing a background report he had thrown a petrol bomb at a house when he was just 13 years old after falling out with the occupant, Lord Bracadale said.

The judge added that Blackburn's "level of wickedness" deserved a long punishment.

Blackburn, who denied murder, was convicted by a unanimous verdict after a trial at the High Court in Livingston.

The teenager claimed the fire started from burning embers dropping from a cannabis cigarette.

But expert witnesses told the court that was very unlikely and produced evidence to indicate the petrol must have been lit by a naked flame.

The attack left Jessica, a former pupil at Arbroath High School, with burns on up to 85% of her body. She died later the same day at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital.

At the trial, prosecutor Frank Mulholland QC described Blackburn's crime as a "barbaric and evil act against a defenceless young woman".



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SEE ALSO
Teenager convicted of fire murder
02 Dec 09 |  Tayside and Central
Teenager's fire death 'barbaric'
01 Dec 09 |  Tayside and Central
Blaze victim 'unable to escape'
26 Nov 09 |  Tayside and Central
'Naked flame' caused fatal fire
26 Nov 09 |  Tayside and Central
Fire victim had petrol on clothes
25 Nov 09 |  Tayside and Central
Fire accused 'slapped' can at girl
24 Nov 09 |  Tayside and Central
Fire accused 'tried to save girl'
24 Nov 09 |  Tayside and Central

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