The children of a woman who died 21 years after being set alight have paid tribute to her bravery and told how grateful they are for each day she lived following the attack.
Steven Craig, 58, was previously handed a discretionary life sentence and served almost 19 years in prison for grievous bodily harm with intent on Jackie Kirk, and two offences relating to a second woman.
He was arrested and charged with murder in 2021 – two years after Ms Kirk died from a ruptured abdomen – and convicted of the charge during a trial at Bristol Crown Court in October.
On Wednesday, Mrs Justice Stacey jailed Craig for life with a minimum term of 15 years and five days – bringing the total amount of time he will serve for the attack to 34 years.
As part of the hearing, Ms Kirk’s daughter Sonna read a statement to the court detailing how she was 13 years old and her brother Shane was aged 22 when their mother was seriously injured.
She described the pair taking three buses to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where Ms Kirk was being treated for burns to 35% of her body.
“Me and Shane were greeted by a nurse who told us to prepare ourselves,” Sonna said.
“I knew she would be burned and hard to recognise but when I walked into her room I had to take the nurse’s word for this (that) the person I saw sitting in the bed was my mum as it looked nothing like her.
“I did my best to hide my shock and gave her a cuddle but this person just didn’t look like my mum. She had a very skinny body, hardly any hair and a patchy face.
“She had tight skin on her face, no lips and just a slit for a mouth. She had no nostrils, and the scar tissue that pulled tight across her face was pulling her bottom eyelids down. She looked like an alien.
“We sat on her bed and she wrote on a notepad as she had no voice, with just a tube in her throat so she could breathe.
“As we sat on her bed she began to write and though messy it looked like my mum’s writing. The words she wrote also sounded like what my mum would say.
“I looked at her feet, her toes were my mum’s toes and I knew then that this was my mum. I remember thinking that this was absurd that the only way I could recognise my mum was by her toes.”
Ms Kirk was initially given a life expectancy of 10 years but survived for 21, watching her children grow up, get married and become parents themselves.
However, in 2019 her children were told that she was seriously unwell in hospital and rushed to be at her bedside.
Sonna said: “It was at that moment I had my last conversation with her and I asked her what she wanted to do. My mum wrote back on her pad ‘AM I DYING’.
“I told her she was as I felt I needed to be honest with her and I felt she needed to know as she had been through so much.
“I wanted to give her the choice to live or to die and my mum then wrote back ‘GIVE ME LOTS OF DRUGS’.
“It was soon after this that my mum slipped out of consciousness and she died with me and Shane by her bedside holding her hand.”
She added: “I spent 21 years feeling grateful and thankful for every extra day that I got to spend with my mum.”
Ms Kirk’s son Shane described how she rarely complained about her injuries but once admitted she was always in pain, found it hard to sleep and would have nightmares when she did.
“Mum was just 40 years old when she was burned, but she managed to find her voice again after being told she would never talk,” he said.
“She beat all the odds and went on to have over 20 more years that I will always be grateful for.
“I will always feel that mum should and could have had and done so much more in her life but Stephen Craig has taken her from our lives too soon.”