A prank that went ‘horribly wrong’ - court hears how man on Great Yarmouth night out was engulfed in flames
09:53 15 July 2014
A man hopes others can learn from his experience after a prank gone “horribly” wrong saw his friend engulfed in flames.
Robert Marshall, 34, spoke out after appearing at court where he admitted one count of assault occasioning grevious bodily harm in relation to the prank, which left his close friend Sam Taylor with 7pc burns to his body, including his face, back and arms.
Great Yarmouth Magistrate’s Court heard he and Marshall were among a group of friends from Sheffield on a weekend break to Lowestoft in April.
On a night out in Yarmouth they had taken a bottle of Brut aftershave along and, as a joke, had been splashing one another with it in a bid to scupper their chances with women.
The friends had then “flicked” a lighter towards anyone who had been splashed, which had caused no damage.
But when Marshall “flashed” the lighter at his friend in Long John’s Bar on Yarmouth’s Britannia Pier the prank went “terribly wrong”, magistrates heard.
Alison Cotterill, prosecuting, said one of the group had “poured” the remainder of the aftershave over Mr Taylor - more than “just a few splashes”.
She added: “Mr Marshall... gets out a cigarette lighter, ignites the flame and flashes it initially towards one of the others.
“Mr Marshall turns round and then goes over to Mr Taylor. He then equally lights the lighter to Mr Taylor’s shirt and it just goes up in flames, he’s engulfed.”
Flames covered part of his upper body and head, the court heard, and he immediately dropped to the floor as his friends - including Marshall - customers and door staff rushed to put them out, using their hands and clothes.
Mr Taylor was taken to the James Paget Hospital before being referred to a burns unit in Chelmsford and was later transferred to hospital in Sheffield.
The court heard he had now recovered from the incident on April 6 and doctors expected him to be left with “little or no scarring”.
Anne-Marie Sheridan, mitigating, said her client was “absolutely devastated” by the consequences of what was a “foolish” prank and had been receiving counselling.
She told the court when the lighter had been flashed on previous occasions the alcohol in the aftershave had “gone whoosh”.
“Nobody had caught fire, that simply hadn’t happened and that was not the expectation of Mr Marshall,” she added. “One of the other members of the group had splashed a huge amount of Brut over Sam, unfortunately Mr Marshall hadn’t seen that amount going over him.
“He’d done what others had done to him...and what happened next was as much a horror to him as it was to the victim.”
Ms Sheridan added that her client, a graphic designer, had been friends with Mr Taylor since he was three and he was a man of good character who had never been in trouble.
Magistrates heard that Mr Taylor, who sat at the back of the court to support his friend, had written to the Crown Prosecution Service to ask that he not be charged.
Chairman of the bench Terence Gilbert described the prank as “stupid” but was clear it was not a “deliberate attack” and ordered Marshall, of Footgate Close, Oughtibridge, Sheffield, to pay a £710 fine, a £71 victim surcharge and £85 costs.
Speaking after yesterday’s hearing Marshall said: “If other people can learn from this that’s the main thing. Just be careful when you go out.”