Family of woman brutally murdered speak of ordeal 24 years after she was set on fire by boyfriend

Jackie Kirk and her daughter before the attack

The family of a woman who died after being set on fire by her boyfriend 24 years ago have spoken of their ordeal.

Jackie Kirk's children have today (10 November) given harrowing accounts of the suffering she endured in the months and years after she was doused in petrol and set alight by 59-year-old Steven Craig in 1998.

Jackie initially survived the attack in Weston-Super-Mare but 21 years later, in 2019, she was admitted to Royal United Hospital Bath and died from her injuries.

Steven Craig, who has already served 18 years in prison for GBH after an initial trial, has today been sentenced to life in prison for Jackie's murder. He will now serve at least 15 years in prison.

During this morning's sentencing hearing, the court heard from Sonna and Shane - Jackie's two children.

Sonna spoke of the moment she was called by the hospital in August 2019, after Jackie had become severely unwell.

Jackie Kirk (pictured with her daughter) died in 2019

She said: "I immediately knew that my mum was going to die because of the timing of the call and that they would not have contacted me unless there was a real need. 

"I was told that there was nothing more that they could do for my mum.

"My husband rushed me into the hospital and I was joined by my brother.  I spoke with the doctor and then went to see my mum. 

"My mum had monitor leads attached to her and oxygen equipment attached to her tracheoscopy and face. 

"She was struggling to breath and she couldn’t talk so had to communicate with me by writing on a notepad. 

"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. "

Sonna added: "I spent 21 years of feeling grateful and thankful for every extra day that I got to spend with my mum. 

"From the very beginning when I was told that she would likely die, she managed to surprise everyone and come through so much. 

"It has been 3 years since my mum died and during that time part of my life has been on hold because I haven’t had complete closure. 

"I have also had to deal with the emotional trauma of going through a second trial, only this time my mum is no longer with me."

The court also heard a statement from Jackie's son Shane, which was read out. In the statement he shared the moment he first saw his mother after the attack in 1998.

Jackie Kirk was described as a 'loving mother' with a 'great sense of humour'

The statement reads: "I went into the room where my mum was being treated and I saw my mum for the first time.

"I immediately began to cry but remember thinking very vividly that this can’t be real and that the person in the bed wasn’t my mum.

"I sat with my mum for a couple of hours where I felt disconnected from her, how could this person hooked up to all these machines and completely covered in bandages be my mum?

"I can remember saying goodbye, it felt like I had already lost her. On the way home all I could think about was how to tell my sister.

"Even though she was unrecognisable, and she could not speak, slowly week by week her personality and character shined through and she slowly became our mum again.

"She hardly ever complained about all the things that she found hard in life, however she once told me that it felt like she was always in pain.

"It was not just physical, she would find it hard to sleep and when she did she would have nightmares. She often got very down and suffered from depression.

"Mum was just 40 years old when she was burnt, but she managed to find her voice again after being told she would never talk. 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."

Steven Craig was sentenced to life in prison today (10 November) Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

During today’s hearing, Richard Smith KC, prosecuting, quoted from a statement Jacqueline Kirk made ahead of the first trial in 2000.

Jaqueline wrote: “There have been times when I wonder if I have a life to live at all, however the thought of my children and the fact that I do not want Steve to have an influence on my giving up on life keeps me going at the moment but I have to admit it is a struggle.

“One of the things I cannot come to terms with is simply “why?”, “why me?” what have I ever done to serve this sentence on my life.”

She also wrote: “I don’t know what the future holds for me but I can say I just try to take each day as it comes and I have good days and bad days.

“One thing is for sure that every time I look at myself in the mirror I am reminded of what happened and I realise that I am going to have to treat my burns for the rest of my life.

“I do sometimes think that my scars are just dirty marks on my face and that my face I knew is underneath.

“I do at times sit there and think I was not meant to live and I was and should have died.”

Today, in a televised sentencing, Mrs Justice Stacey sentenced Craig to 34 years before being considered for parole.

He has already served 18 years, which will be removed from that figure. The judge told Craig he would now serve at least 15 years in prison.

Upon sentencing, the judge told the court: "There is no doubt that you planned and intended to engage in a gratuitous, deliberate and monstrous attack on Jackie with whatever means at your disposal."

"Your conduct was sadistic (...) your attack was planned and premeditated.

"The chilling way in which you forced her into submission and tried to bend her to your will with your abusive behaviour and misogyny over the months and years is an aggravating factor.

"You had the audacity to play the hero to the police when first asked what happened. You then maintained your lies in five police interviews making up a story about a group of yobs and suggesting it was Jackie's fault for spilling the petrol onto her own clothes and lighting a cigarette."

She said the injuries and disfigurement he inflicted were 'horrific'.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Almond, the senior investigating officer, said: “It is extremely difficult to put into words the impact Steven Craig’s actions had on both Jacqueline herself and her family.

“While I never met Jackie, from what her children tell me, she was a truly remarkable woman.

“She overcame numerous challenges with an incredible determination and fought with great dignity to rediscover the life she had before she was attacked.

“Her resilience was one of the reasons why she surprised doctors and survived for a further 21 years, during which time she saw her children grow up, get married and have children of their own.

“Steven Craig was undoubtedly responsible for Jackie’s death and like all murderers, deserves to be severely punished.

“I’d once again like to thank Jackie’s family for their support and praise them for the courage they’ve shown not just during the course of this investigation and court case, but for the past 24 years. “I hope they can move on to the next chapter of their lives knowing justice has been done.”