An autistic teenager died from horrific burns after he was set alight at his 18th birthday party by a yob who had scrawled insults on his body about being gay.
Vulnerable Steven Simpson was doused in tanning oil before Jordan Sheard held a lighter to his groin and sparked it, engulfing him in flames which caused 60 per cent burns.
Sheffield Crown Court heard how Sheard, 20, had called Steven a ‘gay c**t’ earlier at his birthday party and wrote ‘I love d**k’ on his stomach in marker pen.
Autistic Steven Simpson (left) who died at a party after he was doused in tanning oil and set on fire and (right) Jordan Sheard, who held a lighter to his groin and sparked it
A paramedic who came to treat the young victim reported seeing lipstick smudged on his face and the words ‘Gay Boy’ written on his forehead in pen, although it was not clear who had written it.
When Steven, who suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, went up in flames, Sheard fled the scene and then tried to blame his victim, telling police he had set himself on fire.
Judge Rodger Keen QC jailed Sheard for three years and six months telling him: ‘At his 18th birthday party you destroyed Steven’s life.’
Prosecuting, Sarah Wright explained how student Steven, who also had epilepsy and a speech impairment, had thrown an 18th birthday party for himself at the flat where he lived alone in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, on June 22 last year.
When no-one turned up, Steven went out and returned with some people.
At some point in the evening, Sheard arrived at the party with friends but it is not known if they were invited.
Ms Wright said Sheard and his friends were ‘egging’ Steven on to take off his clothes and dance.
During what the prosecution described as ‘cruel behaviour’, Sheard also teased Steven about being gay.
‘He was called a ‘gay c**t’ and the words ‘I love d**k’, was written on his body’, Ms Wright said.
At about 2am he was covered in Calypso dry oil and tanning lotion.
‘Steven Simpson didn’t object to being covered in oil. He seemed to be enjoying the situation,’ Ms Wright said.
‘However then Jordan Sheard took out a yellow lighter, struck it, and held it to Steven’s groin. He went up in flames.
‘Steven Simpson came into the living room, his lower half covered in flames.’
A neighbour, who had popped in to see how the party was going, saw Steven ‘engulfed in flames”
He ran to help him and pushed him to the floor, attempting to extinguish the flames.
‘The burning material from Steven’s trousers stuck to (the neighbour’s) hands,’ Ms Wright said.
One paramedic reported seeing lipstick smudged all over Steven’s face, as well as the words ‘Gay Boy’ written on his head in pen.
Steven, who had been bullied in the past, was taken to Barnsley Hospital before Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.
He was then transferred to a specialist burns unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
On the day before he died, he managed to tell his father he had been covered in the oil by ‘one of the older boys’.
But Steven’s lungs began to deteriorate significantly and he died on June 24.
Sheard was arrested outside Steven’s house and during his first police interview told police Steven had set fire to himself.
However, during his second interview he admitted that it had been him who set fire to Steven’s groin.
He said he had been ‘egged on’ by others, who told him to ‘light it, light it, see what it does’, and that he didn’t realise the damage it would do.
Andrew Smith, mitigating for Sheard, who admitted manslaughter at a previous hearing, called his client’s act a ‘criminally stupid prank which has gone wrong’ and said Sheard will ‘never forget’ the tragic consequences of his actions.
‘You tried briefly to assist and then you ran away. That, in my view, is a serious aggravating factor.’ Judge Rodger Keen QC
He said that Sheard had tried to help Steven at first before running away – an action ‘largely born out of panic’.
Accepting Sheard’s plea that the incident was ‘horseplay’ and that he was encouraged by others, Judge Keen said: ‘This whole evening seems to have as part of it good natured horseplay.
‘That lasted throughout the evening and even shortly before his fatal injuries Steven seemed to be enjoying himself.
‘But you, egged on by others, sought to put a flame to him.
‘And what it did was to engulf him in fire. You tried briefly to assist and then you ran away.
‘That, in my view, is a serious aggravating factor.’
Detective Chief Inspector Sean Middleton, of South Yorkshire Police, said: ‘Steven was described by all who know him as a very caring and likeable young man, whose family will miss him greatly.
‘His generous spirit was taken advantage of and a single thoughtless act resulted in his death.
‘Jordan Sheard has admitted his guilt and will have ample opportunity to reflect on his conduct.
‘I would like to thank the community for their help and I would also like to thank Steven’s family for the dignified way they have dealt with this tragedy.’
Sheard, of Cudworth, South Yorkshire, was jailed at Sheffield Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter at a previous hearing.
Cannot believe he didn’t get longer… How is that fair?! He should have had at least 10 years. Disgusting.
Also upsetting that people still target those with learning difficulties, despite science teaching us so much about it.
Sounds like someone was a bit damaged from their own sexuality issues, if you ask me………