Set alight by Qld man, woman doused in petrol tells court of daily struggles
As her suffering from the shocking injuries was clarified in court, a man who doused a young woman in petrol and set her on fire confessed to the crime.
More than four years after the heinous assault, a woman doused in petrol and set on fire by a Queensland man has revealed she is still coping with day-to-day items such as brushing hair and lighting gas stoves.
On Wednesday, the woman kept back tears at Brisbane District Court when she revealed how she still has nightmares from the brutal assault of Brae Taylor Lewis and must be vigilant about her skin coming into contact with essential chemicals such as detergents and hand soap.
After successfully appealing his previous conviction and 11-year prison term handed down in 2018, Lewis, now 22, is resentenced on one count of malicious act in order to cause grievous bodily harm.
On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to that charge.
Crown prosecutor Elisabeth Kelso told the court that Lewis suggested that last Friday, the week before his retrial was due to start, he would plead guilty.
The court was told that at the time of his crime, Lewis and the woman, who can not be identified for legal purposes, were both 17 and living near Brisbane.
Lewis was washing paint off a vehicle using petrol in a beer bottle on May 27, 2016 when he and the woman got into an argument.
Lewis took the bottle and hurled it at the woman after trying to set her on fire, coating her with petrol, before flicking a lighter in his left hand.
This caused the fumes to ignite and the young woman was engulfed in flames.
Ms Kelso said, "One of the witnesses described seeing the skin peeling from her arms and chest."
When approached by a neighbor, Lewis fled the address and was arrested a day later.
With extensive burns to her arms, neck, hands, stomach, abdomen and left leg, the woman was put in an induced coma.
In her victim impact statement, because of Lewis' actions, she told the court she still struggled to do basic things like washing and dressing herself and brushing her hair.
I began a bleak, depressive journey after everything I had been through, turning to old habits, trying to cope with the pain and forget about it all," she said."
I'm struggling with certain everyday tasks like lighting a gas stove, I'm petrified of putting fuel in any vehicle... I really need to get someone to fill up my car.
With chemicals that come into contact with my skin, I need to be vigilant, as many result in adverse reactions, such as soaps, detergents and cleaning items.
"I was forced to learn how to deal with permanent injuries and I was left with this assault scarring... this is a life sentence for me."
The mother of the woman appeared with her via video link and said that due to Lewis' attack, her daughter had lost her freedom.
Ms. Kelso believed that Lewis had shown no remorse when he left the scene and did not come forward to the police and in the years since had shown little contemplation or insight into his crime.
Lewis was jailed at Beenleigh District Court for 11 years in 2018.
He appealed his sentence and conviction last year, arguing that he intended only to frighten the woman and did not intend to cause her harm.
The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial and set aside the verdict of guilty, finding that the judge in the trial had not given the jury sufficient guidance as to whether he wanted to set the woman on fire.
Andrew Hoare, Lewis' defense counsel, said that his client had always been remorseful and had tried at that time to extinguish the fire.
Mr Hoare said, "He has always accepted responsibility for the consequences of his actions."
Mr. Hoare said that Lewis had asked the police if he could ride with the woman in the ambulance.
He said that Lewis had a rough life, marred by trauma and a family member's suicide.
Mr Hoare said that in the years after, Lewis had completed courses and therapy and his family members had found that he was more mature.
The sentence will be issued by Judge Michael Burnett on Thursday. Lewis has been remanded in prison.