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8 August 2013, 14:52
A man who doused his former girlfriend in petrol and set her alight in front of her child has been found guilty of attempted murder.
Damion Sheldon, 42, from Russells Hall Road, Dudley was jailed for the attack - witnessed by the woman's nine-year-old daughter and which saw her baby momentarily die from smoke inhalation.
During the week-long trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court, the jury heard how Sheldon was unable to come to terms with his partner ending their nine-month relationship.
On 1 December, Sheldon celebrated his 42nd birthday and, from 7.26am that day, phone records obtained by detectives show that he started to make threatening phone calls to his victim - a mother of two. These became increasingly menacing the more he drank.
"In court he claimed he planned to kill himself that day. Instead, he bought petrol and in the early hours of 2 December went to the woman's home on Haden Walk, Rowley Regis and poured the fuel through the letterbox," said Detective Constable Andy Barnsley who investigated the case.
The victim went to investigate having been woken by her barking dog. Her nine-year-old daughter was also woken and followed her mother downstairs as her little sister slept on.
As she opened the front door, Sheldon grabbed her and doused her in petrol before setting her alight. The flames quickly spread to the rest of her body. Sheldon then walked past the burning woman and ignited a pool of petrol inside the house.
Seeing her mother on fire, the heroic young girl sprang into action and worked to remove the burning clothes, and got her mother to drop to the ground and roll.
Despite her own horrific injuries, the woman's only concern was for her children.
Badly burned, she screamed out to neighbours that her baby was in the blazing building and that they should focus their efforts on rescuing the tot inside.
Three men then tried to break down the front door but were forced to try the rear of the house when the door wouldn't open. Once inside the trio were beaten back by a wall of flames and thick black smoke.
They then went to the front of the house, climbed a ladder and used a sledgehammer to smash the bedroom window where the 13-month-old child was being choked by the deadly fumes.
Nearby police officers joined neighbours in their rescue attempts shortly before the fire service arrived.
Two fire-fighters battled their way into the property through the back door, extinguished the hallway inferno and felt their way through the plumes of soot and smoke to the bedroom.
As they groped around in the darkness the fire-fighters located the cot and felt the lifeless child inside.
The baby was rushed out of the house and passed to other firemen who performed CPR for five minutes and brought the child back to life.
DC Barnsley, from Force CID, investigated the case. He said: "This was a horrific crime committed out of pure malice at having been jilted by his partner. It is a measure of Sheldon's character that he went to set fire to his ex-partner's home in the dead of night and when disturbed by the woman, he doused her in petrol and set fire to her in front of her young daughter.
"But this horror wasn't enough for Sheldon who then coolly walked into the house and set fire to the family home where a baby was sleeping. Like a coward he then ran off in an attempt to evade justice and when captured, tried to deny any knowledge of the offence blaming his actions on alcohol.
"It is thanks to the woman's quick thinking, her brave daughter's help and the actions of neighbours and the emergency services that this was prevented from becoming a tragedy. I would like to thank everyone who pulled together in the face of adversity.
"I also wish the woman and her young family the best of luck for the future. I am certain that Sheldon's conviction will come as some comfort to them."
The jury took under four hours to find Sheldon guilty of attempted murder. Upon hearing their verdict presiding judge, John Warner, warned him: "You are looking at a long period in custody."
Damion Sheldon will be sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court in September.