Stephen Newman

On July 23, 2011, fire officers arrived at a garage in Selly Oak, Birmingham, and found two men crouching outside with severe burns, and a burning propane cylinder inside.

Mr Wilding, 41, had suffered fatal burns to half his body. Mr Cotterill, then 34, endured terrible injuries, spent 48 days in intensive care and lost all his fingers.

Stephen Newman, who admitted being present, was convicted in 2012 of deliberately directing  the flame from the cylinder at the two men, and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Mr Wilding and Mr Cotterill had found the disused garage off an alleyway and turned it into a squat. Stephen and others visited the building the day before and the three had been drinking heavily.

Stephen says he did not light the cannister, and it was was activated by Mr Wilding in an attempt to dry damp trousers belonging to another individual. He heard the cannister hiss, and residents near the garage heard the same noise, believed an explosion was imminent and urged those inside to flee. CCTV footage shows him exiting the scene alone.

A local newspaper after  viewing witness statements and conducting interviews has concluded that there are, at the very least, significant questions that remain unanswered.

In January 2013,  Mr Cotterill stated: “I did not see Stephen light that gas cannister. I didn’t see what happened.”

There was no motive or reason for Stephen to attack the men, and his brother has said: “Stephen was placid, really. He would not harm a fly. Even if he tried, he couldn’t. He would not be capable of using a gas bottle to attack these people because that was not his character.”

After losing an appeal against his conviction, Stephen has been on hunger-strike, and has not eaten for three weeks.

Source: Birmingham Mail, April 21, 2016

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