Killer arsonist beat neighbour before burning him alive in petrol-doused caravan

A man has been jailed for life for the brutal murder of his neighbour, who he beat unconscious and then set on fire.

Darren Smith 43, murdered Richard Thomas at the Beeches caravan park in Magor, Monmouthshire, on December 20, 2021.

Reports described Mr Thomas’ remains as "smouldering and smoking" when they were pulled from the flames.

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According to Wales Online, the harrowing incident occurred after an argument escalated to a physical altercation – with Smith inflicting a head injury and broken ribs on his victim.

He then poured petrol on and around the victim before setting the caravan alight and leaving Mr Thomas to die before walking back to his own caravan.

Jason Pritchard, the site owner's son, noticed the blaze and was attempting to put it out with a hose when he found Mr Thomas on the floor.

He told authorities how Mr Thomas’ skin degloved from his body while he pulled him from the flames.

Emergency services were called to the caravan site and firefighters doused him in water and applied cooling gel packs.

Two firefighters reported hearing the victim saying "stop hitting me" or "stop hurting me". Despite their best efforts, Mr Thomas died as a result of his injuries.

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When police attempted to speak to Smith about the incident he pretended to have just woken up.

However, a firefighter noticed signs of smoke on his body and Mr Pritchard claimed to have seen him leaving the caravan moments before the blaze began.

Smith responded by telling Mr Pritchard: "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" and referring to Mr Thomas "If he dies he dies."

Smith also sent a text message to a friend saying "I have done something stupid".

Despite initially denying involvement, Smith later admitted he had been drinking with Mr Thomas when an argument broke out.

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He claims Mr Thomas started both the argument and the fire but his claims were dismissed by a jury during his trial at Cardiff Crown Court in November of 2022.

Smith was found guilty of Mr Thomas' murder.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 25 years.

Judge Lloyd-Clarke expressed her "sincere condolences" to the family of Mr Thomas and commended Mr Pritchard's bravery in his actions, recommending him to receive an award of £1,000 from the High Sheriff of Gwent.

Sentencing, the Recorder of Cardiff Judge Tracey Lloyde-Clarke said: "You said 'No one was meant to die'. I find that to be true but there was obviously a high risk of death by lighting a fire close or setting fire to Mr Thomas himself while unconscious means the difference between intent to cause serious harm and intent to kill is not material in this case."

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