A man has been convicted of murdering his former girlfriend more than 20 years after he doused her with petrol and set her on fire.
Steven Paul Craig, 58, was found guilty of grievous bodily harm with intent two years after he carried out the horrific attack on Jacqueline Kirk in April 1998.
Then aged 35, Craig was described as a heroin and amphetamine user as well as a heavy drinker.
He was said to have developed a fascination with a scene from the 1992 Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs in which a police officer is tied to a chair, tortured and has petrol poured over him.
Ms Kirk, who was 42 during the first trial which took place in April 2000, told Bristol Crown Court her relationship with Craig had been stormy and that at the time she was terrified of him.
The mother of two said they had been together for around three or four years before the incident and that he used to hit her regularly.
She described another incident which happened two years before, when Craig covered her in petrol as she lay in bed but he did not light it.
The day before the near-fatal incident Ms Kirk said she travelled with Craig from Bath, where they lived, to Weston-super-Mare following an argument.
He had told her she needed to get out of town because he had ordered someone called “big Charlie” to kill her and he could not stop him.
She said the pair spent a night sleeping in their Volkswagen car and a day wandering around the seaside town in Somerset before they went back to the vehicle which they had parked in Dolphin Square.
Giving her evidence from the witness stand, her face clearly disfigured by her injuries, Ms Kirk recounted the attack itself during which she covered the plastic tube in her throat so the court could hear what she had to say.
She told the court: “I only got in the car to start with to stop being hit.
“He told me to pass him the bottle which was behind his seat. I passed it to him.
“He told me to put my head down and said ‘get it right down’ which I did as far as I could.
“Then he poured the petrol over me. I could feel it going down my face and my neck.
“It just seemed to go on and on forever.
“I wasn’t thinking he was going to set fire to me. I just thought I was going to get battered and I was thinking ‘not again’.
“Steve got out of the car. I got out of the car after Steve as I thought it was safer.
“He said: ‘Have a cigarette, it might be your last one.’
“I said I didn’t want one.
“He said: ‘Take it or I’ll throw it at you, see how calm your nerves are now’.
“I took it. He gave me a light. I just saw a blue flame from the lighter flashing past my face.
“I started to feel my arms burning. He turned round and I think I said: ‘Help me’.”
The next thing Ms Kirk said she remembered was waking up in Frenchay Hospital in Bristol.
She would spend the next eight to nine months in hospital undergoing 14 operations including a tracheotomy to help her breathe.
Although Ms Kirk had survived her “life-threatening” injuries, she had suffered burns to 35% of her body and had to have extensive skin grafts.
Out of fear of Craig, Ms Kirk refused to tell the police what had happened until after she was released from hospital, telling the court: “It is very difficult to believe someone you love could do that to you.
“I did not have the strength.”
But she said she could not spend her life “not being able to tell people the truth”.
“I had a duty to my own self-respect,” Ms Kirk added.
When she opened up to officers about her ordeal she told them of Craig’s obsession with the Reservoir Dogs scene, later telling the trial: “He just thought it was really cool and great to be able to do.”
By the time Ms Kirk came forward Craig had already been arrested for an attack on another woman.
The woman, who remains anonymous for legal reasons, had been subjected to a terrifying ordeal lasting a number of hours in a squat in the eastern area of Bristol on January 23 1999, the court was told.
The court heard how Craig repeatedly punched her, head-butted her and beat her with a piece of wood before raping her.
The prosecutor said the woman, who was tied up during the attack, received serious injuries.
And at one point Craig tried to scalp her with a pair of scissors which he also used to stab her before throwing her into a bath of hot water.
She also told the court he had doused her in lighter fuel and waved a lighter in front of her.
According to the woman, Craig told her: “I am enjoying this. I am a psychopath. Don’t beg.”
Craig, who sat in the dock flanked by three prison officers, wearing grey trousers, a brown shirt and patterned Paisley tie, denied all the charges relating to the attacks on both women.
He explained Ms Kirk’s injuries were caused by her spilling petrol on herself after she was disturbed by some youths while filling up the car from a Coke bottle and it had accidentally ignited.
He said he had no recollection of the other attack, claiming it must have been someone else.
The jury found Craig guilty of two charges of GBH with intent and one count of rape but was cleared of a second charge of rape.
He was sentenced in May 2000 to life in prison, with Judge Carol Hagen recommending he serve at least nine years behind bars.
He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register when he was released.
Judge Hagen said: “I regard this defendant as posing the gravest possible risk to the public and most certainly to any woman with whom he might strike up a relationship in the future.”
Referring to the attack on Ms Kirk, she said: “It is difficult to conceive of anyone committing a more horrendous offence … the consequences for her will be with her for the rest of her life.”
Craig was first released on licence in 2015 but was recalled to prison on multiple occasions.
His most recent stint inside before being charged with murder on June 3 2021 was in 2019.
Craig was found guilty of murder on Friday at Bristol Crown Court after prosecutors successfully argued the injuries he inflicted on Ms Kirk more than two decades ago contributed to her death in 2019 when she suffered a ruptured diaphragm.