Man inspired by Reservoir Dogs guilty of murder 24 years after he set girlfriend on fire

Jacqueline Kirk with her daughter

A man has been convicted of murder after he poured petrol over his girlfriend and set her on fire 24 years ago.

Steven Craig, 59, is believed to have been inspired by a scene in the film Reservoir Dogs when he attacked Jacqueline Kirk in Weston-super-Mare in 1998.

She survived the assault but spent a month in a coma and was left with horrific lifelong injuries.

Craig was subsequently convicted of grievous bodily harm and imprisoned in 2000. But in 2019, Kirk was taken to hospital and died, aged 62.

This led to a landmark case at Bristol Crown Court with Craig accused of murder, 21 years after he had attacked his victim.

Stephen Craig has been found guilty of murdering Jacqueline Kirk. She died 21 years after he set her on fire in a car park.

The defendant denied the charge but today (28 October) a jury agreed with the prosecution that the horrific injuries he inflicted on Ms Kirk led to her death and convicted him of murder.

Ms Kirk's family shouted “yes” and wept as the jury returned the unanimous verdict on Friday afternoon.

In 1998, Ms Kirk was a 40-year-old mother who loved her children and the outdoors.

But on 18 April that year, Steven Craig, from York, attacked Ms Kirk by pouring petrol over her head and setting her alight.

The fire almost killed her and she was rushed to hospital, where she was placed in a medically-induced coma.

Her daughter, Sonna, and her family did not expect Ms Kirk to survive the attack.

Sonna said: “We didn’t think she was ever going to come out of the coma they put her in. We just assumed that was going to be, kind of, the last days of her life.

“But day by day went and after a month, they brought her out the coma.

“Then she had to face God knows how many challenges and how many operations."

Jacqueline Kirk with her daughter Sonna

Her survival led to Steven Craig being convicted of GBH in 2000, which saw him spend years behind bars.

Over the following years, Ms Kirk tried to find a new normal in life, something her family had thought they would never see.

“She had her fiftieth birthday which we never thought would happen,” Sonna said. “And then she had her sixtieth birthday.”

Sonna added: “She got to see her son get married and have a child, got to see me get married and have children, and that was a really important thing for all of us, to have our mum for those life events.”

Jacqueline and Sonna

But in August 2019, Ms Kirk was taken to the Royal United Hospital Bath as she was dreadfully unwell.

Medical professionals found her insides had swollen, causing her diaphragm to rupture, quickly leading to her death.

A post-mortem examination found that because she had so much scar tissue, her abdomen could not expand as it should have and experts concluded that these old injuries had led directly to her death.

Craig had been released from prison and was living in York when he was informed of Kirk’s death.

In his second trial for the same attack, Ms Kirk’s lawyers used alternative expert evidence to suggest she had died from other causes and not the injuries he had inflicted 24 years ago.

But the jury disagreed and found him guilty.

DCI Mark Almond, from Avon and Somerset Police Credit: Avon and Somerset Police.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Almond, of Avon and Somerset Police said: “It’s very rare you’d have a case such as this, where a long period of time has passed between the events causing the injury and the death.

He added that he is unaware of any case in British legal history ever taking place where someone was tried for murder so long after their attack on a victim.

“The closest I’m aware of is one that there was an eight year period between incident and death, so it’s possibly a groundbreaking case”, he added.

This landmark ruling is in part thanks to a change in the law made before the attack on Kirk ever took place.

Ben Samples of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The law was changed in the mid-90s to reflect the advances in medical support, such that we can now consider a prosecution for murder if somebody sadly dies later as a result of their injuries.”

Mrs Justice Stacey thanked the jury for their work during the case.

The judge said: “By your verdict, you have ensured that justice has been done and there is closure for Ms Kirk’s family.

“That is hugely important and it is your role over the past three weeks that has enabled that to happen.”

Craig, who was remanded in custody, will be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on November 9.