Drunk thug sets fire to rough sleeper’s blanket at start of four-hour attack

Harrowing footage shows a drunk thug setting fire to a homeless man’s blanket during four hours of "torture" in a churchyard.

The vulnerable victim, who is blind in one eye and has mental health problems, was left with permanent scars after the ordeal.

He was found "bloodied and burned" in the grounds of St Hilda’s Church in South Shields in the early hours of July 9 last year, Chronicle Live reports.

Khaled Hassan, 43, was jailed for nine-and-a-half years for the horrific attack.

The 59-year-old victim 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 at Newcastle Crown Court said Hassan and Mark Liddle first came upon the sleeping victim at around 6.30am and proceeded to riffle 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 sperate 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, from 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.

“You were laughing towards others who were slow or incapable to intervene in your cruelty.”

The court was told Hassan tried to set fire to the victim or his bedding at least 25 times and smoke could be seen coming from his clothes.

He also blocked other people from attempting to help the man and “laughed throughout” the attack, Judge Gittins said.


The judge added: “It could so easily have been fatal if his clothing has not been so fire resistent or his shock being lessened by the intoxicants he had taken.”

The court was told that the victim slept through the early part of the attack and remembers very little about it.

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said: “At 6.47am, [the victim] can be seen raising his hands and he rubs his head as if to extinguish something and Hassan continues to hold the lighter hear his head, trying to set fire to it.”

The victim was found shortly before 10am by the vicar of St Hilda’s and the emergency services were called.

Hassan was arrested but claimed he had been drinking and taking drugs and had no recollection of the attack.

In a letter to the court, he said he was “truly sorry” for what he had done and still “couldn’t understand” his “shocking” behaviour.

Hassan wrote: “The guilt and sadness I feel keeps me awake at night.


“In my dreams, I’m apologising over and over to the man who suffered at my hands. I want everyone involved to know how deeply sorry I am.”

Glen Gatland, mitigating, said Hassan also suffered from drug, alcohol and mental health problems and continued to have no memory of the attack.

Liddle, 51, admitted attempted theft from the victim and two, separate malicious communications charges in relation to abusive text messages, unrelated to this case.

He was sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 100 hours of unpaid work and a six-month, nighttime curfew.

Peter Shofield, mitigating, said Liddle has sought help with his problems and has taken steps to improve his future and stay away from trouble.

Hassan was also made subject of a ten-year restraining order banning him from contacting the victim.

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