Wife killer must serve 16 years in jail

AN "unbelievably cruel" father-of-four who poured litres of petrol over his ex-wife before turning her into a human fireball must serve at least 16 years behind bars for his crime.

AN "unbelievably cruel" father-of-four who poured litres of petrol over his ex-wife before turning her into a human fireball must serve at least 16 years behind bars for his crime.

Mrs Justice Cox ruled that was the least Terence Abbott deserved for the "brutal and abhorrent" murder of his former wife, Lorraine Baldwin, in April 2001.

Abbott, formerly of Speedwell Road, Ipswich, was jailed for life at Norwich Crown Court after being convicted of murder, which the judge described as "unbelievably cruel".

And yesterday, after reviewing the case at London's Royal Courts of Justice, Mrs Justice Cox ruled he must serve a minimum jail "tariff" of 16 years. That means that, even after time spent on remand is taken into account, it will be June 2017 before he can even ask to be paroled.

In her ruling today, the judge said she was certain that, had Abbott been sentenced for the first time today, under much tougher sentencing guidelines now in force, a tariff "in excess of 20 years" would have been fixed in his case.

Ruling the murder was premeditated, the judge said Abbott, now 59, had previously threatened to set fire to his wife. He launched the attack in a residential area as his ex-wife was "trying to flee".

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Abbott's "stormy" 19-year marriage ended in divorce in 1999 and he kept custody of the four children. There was a reconciliation between them in April 2001 but, when this broke down, Abbott set out in his car with a five-litre can of petrol in the boot.

Abbott tailed Mrs Baldwin and her mother in their car and, when they got out and tried to make for safety, Abbott grabbed his ex-wife, threw her to the ground, poured petrol over the front of her coat and set light to her She ran into the house "in a ball of flames".

Although someone rolled her in the back garden to put out the flames, she suffered appalling burns and died on May 5, 2001.

Mrs Justice Cox said the trial judge had been entitled to describe the murder as a "determined planned attack". The jury had rejected Abbott's claim that his ex-wife "sneered" at him before he doused her with the petrol.

There was, she added, "no element of provocation" and no other mitigation.

All that could be said in Abbott's favour was that he had expressed remorse and his good behaviour in prison "presents an encouraging picture" for the future.

Once Abbott has served his 16-year tariff, he will be freed if he can persuade the Parole Board he poses no serious public danger.

When released, he will remain on perpetual "life licence", subject to prison recall should he put a foot wrong ever again.

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