Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Man Tried to Set Fire to Homeless Sleeper; DRUNKEN THUG JAILED FOR BRUTAL ATTACK IN CHURCHYARD

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Man Tried to Set Fire to Homeless Sleeper; DRUNKEN THUG JAILED FOR BRUTAL ATTACK IN CHURCHYARD

Article excerpt

Byline: Sara Nichol Reporter sara.nihcol@ncjmedia.co.uk @SaraNichol10

A ROUGH sleeper was subjected to four hours of "torture" when he was repeatedly set on fire, beaten with a crutch and spat on as he lay in a churchyard.

The vulnerable victim, who is blind in one eye and suffers from a mental health disorder and alcohol problem, was left burned and permanently scarred when he was set upon while he slept on a bench by drunken thug Khaled Hassan.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 59-year-old was found by a vicar "bloodied and burned" in the grounds of St Hilda's Church in South Shields soon after the horrific attack, which happened early in the morning on July 9 last year.

He was taken to Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary suffering from full-thickness burns to parts of his body and will be left with permanent scars to his chest and upper back.

Prosecutors said Hassan and Mark Liddle first came upon the sleeping victim at around 6.30am and proceeded to rifle through his pockets looking for something to steal. But while Liddle then walked away from the scene, Hassan began his brutal attack, during which he held a lighter to the man's sleeping bag, clothes, hair, eyebrows and body on at least 25 separate occasions.

In between trying to set the victim on fire, Hassan was seen to beat him with a crutch, spit on him, throw a glass bottle towards him and use a pen to draw on his face, prosecutors said.

The harrowing ordeal was captured on CCTV, the court was told, and Hassan can clearly be seen to be laughing throughout.

Hassan, of Beach Road, South Shields, was identified from the footage and pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent and attempted theft.

Jailing him for nine-and-a-half years, Judge Tim Gittins said: "You proceeded, over three-and-a-half hours or so, from 6.30am to just before 10am, to degrade and humiliate him, to assault him repeatedly and, effectively, to torture him, principally with fire, for no other purpose it would seem than his incapability to respond and defend himself and for apparent laughs, as you are seen thinking that this behaviour towards him was humorous from start to finish. …

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