Man murdered vulnerable girlfriend by setting her on fire

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A Mansfield man who murdered his vulnerable girlfriend by dousing her in white spirit and setting her on fire has been handed a life sentence.

David Dunstan, 42, of Redgate Close was told he must serve at least 25 years for the ‘horrifying’ attack on 43-year-old Carolyn Hyatt in August last year.

Ms Hyatt had special needs and other health problems, having suffered with diabetes and a number of strokes which affected her mobility.

Derby Crown Court heard today how in the early hours of August 6 last year, Ms Hyatt made a desperate 999 call to say her boyfriend had set her on fire.

She was taken to hospital but a decision was made to turn off her life-support machine three weeks later after she had suffered another stroke, brought on by her injuries.

The court was told how the pair, who had only been together a month, had been living at Ms Hyatt’s flat on Redgate Close, but had gone to stay at Dunstan’s mother’s bungalow on Linden Street, Shirebrook, while she was away.

Dunstan admitted a charge of murder and claimed he could not remember the incident that led to Ms Hyatt’s death, but a bottle of white spirit was found at the scene.

She had suffered 20 per cent burns to her back, arm, neck and face, while she also had two lacerations to her head, which was from a walking stick that Dunstan had hit her with.

Forensics suggested she had been set on fire in the living room and she had rushed to the bathroom to put out the flames.

She then got into bed and sometime later made the 999 call.

Judge John Burgess said: “The facts of this case are both depressing and horrifying.

“A 43-year-old woman died as a result of a stroke prompted by the injuries she suffered when she was set on fire by you.

“Carolyn Hyatt was a vulnerable woman, her final misfortune was to get involved with you David Dunstan.

“Though you claim you can’t remember what happened, it’s obvious that you set fire to her.

“It was a terrible thing that you did.”

He jailed Dunstan for 25 years minimum, minus the 278 days he had already spent in custody.

Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Meadows said after sentencing: “This was an abhorrent crime. Not only did Dunstan brutally attack Carolyn but he abused the trust she had placed in him as a very new partner.

“He also abused the trust of his own unsuspecting mother by committing the attack in her home while she was away on holiday.

“Carolyn was a much-loved sister and her devastated family will live with the consequences of her loss for the rest of their lives.

“I hope this guilty plea and the very substantial sentence will help to bring some form of closure for her family.

“No one should ever suffer the way Carolyn did that night or during the time she spent in hospital.

“We take reports of domestic abuse very seriously in Derbyshire. If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse, I would urge you to come forward and speak to us. We have specially trained officers on hand to support you. Please don’t suffer in silence.”