Australia Woman who set husband on fire at Geelong home pleads guilty to manslaughter

09:02  30 july  2021
09:02  30 july  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man sitting at a table with wine glasses: Daniel Surtees died in hospital on January 26, 2020, from his burns. (Facebook: Angela Surtees) © Provided by ABC NEWS Daniel Surtees died in hospital on January 26, 2020, from his burns. (Facebook: Angela Surtees)

A Victorian man who was set on fire by his wife during a domestic dispute had to be hosed down in the front yard, where a passing motorist found his still-burning body.

Warning: The following story contains content that some readers may find distressing.

The gruesome new details were today aired in the Supreme Court of Victoria where Angela Surtees has pleaded guilty to killing her husband in Geelong early last year.

Ms Surtees, 34, was due to face a murder trial but instead struck a plea deal to the lesser charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

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Until now, details of what happened have been unclear, but today prosecutors revealed the genesis of the incident which left Daniel Surtees, 36, with deep burns to 80 per cent of his body.

On January 25, 2020, the couple had been at an engagement party in the Geelong suburb of Corio when an argument broke out between Mr Surtees and other family members.

They left the event and argued in the car on the way to their family home in Whittington, with the court hearing that Mr Surtees punched the dashboard.

Crown prosecutor Ray Gibson QC said a neighbour heard the couple yelling for about 20 minutes before things escalated in their sunroom.

"The accused, stirred up by the events of the day, and aggravated by the behaviour of the deceased, got hold of the 20-litre red jerry can which contained unleaded fuel," Mr Gibson said.

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"The accused removed the cap of the jerry can and poured a significant quantity of petrol onto the deceased while he was sitting in the armchair."

Mr Gibson told the court Ms Surtees then took a red cigarette lighter, lit it and threatened her husband.

"The deceased then ignited," Mr Gibson said.

"The prosecution concedes that the accused did not intend to ignite the deceased, however she did intend him to fear that he would catch fire."

Mr Surtees set fire to her left sleeve herself during the incident.

The blaze happened just metres away from where the couple's children were watching television in the lounge room.

Witnesses report seeing Ms Surtees spraying down her husband on the front lawn with a hose while the armchair was still on fire.

Ms Surtees told a triple-0 operator that the couple had been fighting over a jerry can and she had accidentally spilled it, setting him alight.

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"During the call, the voice of the deceased could be heard in the background in apparent agony," Mr Gibson said.

It was then that a passing motorist saw smoke from the house and pulled up, where he saw Mr Surtees naked in the front yard and in significant pain.

"His clothes were in the front lawn still burning," Mr Gibson said.

Mr Surtees was taken to Geelong's hospital and later The Alfred hospital, where his life support was ultimately turned off.

During her police interview, Ms Surtees said things had escalated after she made a "tough guy remark" about setting people on fire.

She told police her husband had found that comment funny and was "egging her on".

She said that her husband had then put the jerry can at her feet and said, "You don't have it in you".

She then said that she took the lid off the jerry can and, in the heat of the moment, doused him in petrol.

After the incident, Victoria Police forensics officers conducted experiments to check the accused's account, including tests to see how much liquid could be shaken from a jerry can in a certain amount of time.

Today the court heard that the couple, who had been together for about 10 years, had a "volatile" relationship which included "screaming matches".

Ms Surtees has already spent 550 days in custody.

The hearing was adjourned and she will return to court in August.

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