Murder conviction 21 years after attack believed to be legal first

The murder conviction of a man whose former partner died 21 years after he set her alight is believed to be a legal first.

Steven Craig, 58, was initially jailed for life in 2000 for committing grievous bodily harm with intent on Jacqueline Kirk in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, two years before.

He served more than 15 years in prison for that offence, as well as charges of rape and grievous bodily harm relating to a different woman.

Officers from Avon and Somerset Police arrested Craig in 2021 following Ms Kirk’s death at the age of 61 in 2019.

Craig, who was said to have been inspired by a scene from the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs when he committed the attack, was then charged with murder.

Ben Samples, head of the Crown Prosecution Service South West’s Complex Casework Unit, told the PA news agency that permission had to be sought from the Attorney General for the charge.

“The charge was only possible after a rule called the ‘year and a day’ rule was abolished in 1996, which allowed us to then prosecute a homicide offence where a death occurred over a year and a day after the unlawful act,” Mr Samples said.

“It is an unusual situation, we are looking to prosecute somebody twice for the same unlawful act.

“When a death is over three years after the unlawful act, as it was in this case, we have to approach the Attorney General to get consent to prosecute.

“I’m not aware of any case in this country where a prosecution has taken place for murder or a homicide offence so many years after the unlawful act.”

Mr Samples described the case as complex, with eight specialist medical experts providing evidence to inform the decision to charge Craig.

He said there was also the question of whether it was in the public interest to prosecute the case, considering Craig had already been convicted and served a lengthy prison sentence.

“We reflected on the need to acknowledge that the full consequences of his actions were not fully appreciated at that time,” Mr Samples said.

“That was an important factor that persuaded us that it should be prosecuted and go to the Attorney General and seek her consent.”

Mr Samples added that the case demonstrated the agency’s determination to hold domestic abusers to account, with Craig being violent to Ms Kirk during their relationship.

“The case is an example of a really serious example of violence but it started well before that,” he said.