THIS is the moment a 22-year-old student erupted in a ball of flame after a doorman set fire to his fancy dress sheep costume.
Sean Collins, from Sunderland, suffered severe burns on his hands and arms and has had to undergo several skin grafts.
Judge Michael Leeming, QC, murmured “horrific” as he was shown CCTV footage of the moment Sean Collins’ homemade costume “fireballed out of control.”
Thomas McGuiness, 24, of Hamilton Road, Chorley, has been jailed for 18 months for the attack.
Doorman McGuiness sat with his arms folded amid audible gasps in the courtroom as a film of him holding his cigarette lighter to the victim was played.
Sean Collins, a forensic science and criminal investigation student at the University of Central Lancashire, was out celebrating a 21st birthday in Preston’s Evoque nightclub on January 17, when his night turned to tragedy, Preston Crown Court heard.
Hanifa Patel, prosecuting, said: “He was dressed as a sheep. It was a homemade outfit. It was covered in cotton wools balls and sprayed with hairspray to assist the balls to stay in place.
“The group of friends went in Evoque nightclub at around 2.15am.
“The victim was in the smoking area with some friend having a cigarette when all of a sudden his costume ended up alight. It was covered in flames.
“He was assisted by members of public. When officers arrived at the scene the victim was being treated for his injuries and the defendant was present.
“He was standing very close and trying to see what was happening.
“He then commented: “It was my fault. I was talking to my girlfriend having a cigarette and as I was waving my hand my cigarette caught him and he set alight.
“I’m an off-duty doorman and work at Evoque if you need to speak to me.”
The court heard staff looked at CCTV footage and saw the father-of-two was standing next to the victim with a lighter in his hand, and he lit the victim’s costume.
Mr Collins suffered 12 per cent body surface area burns to both hands and forearms.
He was transferred from Preston for further care at South Manchester University Hospital.
He had to be operated on, have a skin graft operation and may need up to two years of treatment.
Miss Patel said he had missed two months of the final year of his course at UCLan and had to give up his job in the kitchen at McDonald’s and had been left suffering anxiety and depression.
McGuiness admitted unlawful wounding.
Adrian Williams, defending, said: “This was an incredibly stupid prank, not a deliberate assault on Mr Collins.
“This defendant was shocked by the consequences of his actions, he did not foresee them at ball but he is responsible for them.”
“This is a case where the defendant acted wholly without malice.”
Judge Leeming said: “I’m afraid the view I take is for an offence as serious as this I cannot suspend the sentence. It gives me no pleasure to say that.”
Today Mr Collins, 22, who used to live on St Paul’s Road, in Deepdale, said he was disappointed with the sentence.
He said:”It had taken me about 12 hours to make the costume.
“I remember standing having a cigarette – the next minute I was on fire. I panicked and ran around trying to get the suit off.
“My friends tried to help me. Afterwards I ran into the street and sank to the pavement in shock.
“I was dealing with it pretty well while I was in hospital.
“I believed it was an accident and that someone had caught me with a cigarette.
“But them when the police came to see me and told me it wasn’t an accident it really affected me.
“I am still doing my course; I should have finished in May but couldn’t because of my injuries.
“I will probably never come back to Preston. I used to love socialising and football but haven’t been out since, and I can’t play football until my skin grafts have healed.
“Looking back now, I know there’s a chance I could have burnt to death, but I wasn’t thinking that at the time, I just wanted to get the suit off me.”