Attack victim’s face set on fire

Preston Crown Court.

Preston Crown Court.

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A group of five men allegedly held a homeless man captive in a Blackpool flat and subjected him to a vicious attack in which his face was set on fire.

John Nugent had to extinguish the flames with a bed cover after one of his attackers sprayed deodorant in his face and set it on fire, Preston Crown Court was told.

During a seven-hour ordeal, the men punched and threatened Mr Nugent, leaving him bleeding from his eyes and mouth, concussed and begging to be freed.

One of the men told him: “You are locked in. We are going to keep you here for days and you are going to do your rattle” - meaning he would be forced to withdraw from drugs ‘cold turkey’.

Mr Nugent was found in Topping Street disorientated, confused and crying, seven hours after he was seen collecting his prescription from Lloyds pharmacy at 9.40am, by a passer by who called the emergency services.

He was taken to hospital where he was found to have a blood clot to his brain, burns to his scalp, extensive bruising to his head, torso and arms and a fractured hand.

David Potts, 32, Joshua Rollinson, 18, Allan Smith, 37, Andrew Southern, 36, and Jonathan Stemburski, 35, deny false imprisonment and causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) to Mr Nugent.

Giving evidence from behind screens Mr Nugent told the court he knew Stemburski, Potts and Southern and thought they were friends.

He would regularly visit Stemburski’s flat in Church Street and had met Rollinson and Smith through the men.

But in January Nugent started a brief relationship with Potts’ sister Clair - which the court heard was the catalyst to the attack.

On February 7 Mr Nugent went to Stemburski’s flat and found Rollinson waiting outside.

The two men went inside and waited while Stemburski bagged up some cannabis, the court was told.

A short while later Potts and Southern arrived and the mood changed almost immediately.

Jon Close, prosecuting, said: “Potts became immediately hostile. He was calm but threatening, saying ‘you are going to get it.’ When Nugent asked ‘I thought we were friends’ Potts replied ‘Not since you slept with my sister.’

“Potts started the attack – he kneed him all about his head and face. The others joined in punching him to the head and body.

“Stemburski seemed the least willing in that he was reluctant at first but he too struck him to the ribs. The beating went on and on. He estimates - and t can only be an estimate - that he was hit over 100 times by the group.

“Alan Smith came to the flat. He came over, sprayed something in Nugent’s face. Whatever it was must have been flammable because Smith set it alight. Nugent’s face was on fire. He had to use either the duvet or a towel to extinguish the flames.

“Even though he begged and pleaded they continued to hit and threaten him .”

The attack only came to an end when Clair Potts and David Potts’ girlfriend came to the flat and Miss Riley told them it was “too much”.

Mr Nugent was finally freed. Rollinson denies attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Potts, of Salthouse Avenue, Blackpool, and Rollinson, of King Street, Blackpool deny being at the flat at the time of the alleged attack.

Smith, of Lynn Grove, Blackpool, states he was at the flat but stayed in the kitchen while Rollinson, Stemburski, Potts and Southern were in the lounge area.

Southern, of Lynn Grove, Blackpool, accepts he visited the flat with Potts and saw Nugent, who remained uninjured until Southern left 90 minutes later, and Stemburski, of Church Street, claims Nugent did not visit the flat on February 7, and no assault took place.

(Proceeding)