A man who burned his girlfriend alive in front of two young children was yesterday jailed for life.
Ashley Williams hit Julie Beattie, 24, repeatedly over the head with a hammer before dousing her with a cocktail of diesel and petrol and setting her on fire in a scene of “utter horror”.
Miss Beattie suffered 90 per cent burns to her body and was so badly injured her fingers were fused together.
She died later the same day.
Today, Judge Charles Ward ordering that Williams should serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars.
He also criticised Williams for “smiling and chuckling” during the trial and described him as a “very dangerous man” .
The Old Bailey was told the couple got together when Miss Beattie was just 16 and Williams was 40.
On July 19 last year, she told Williams she was leaving him for his 18-year-old son, also called Ashley.
Williams attacked her in the kitchen of their terraced home in front of two children, aged four and five.
The children were the youngest ever to give evidence in a murder trial at the Old Bailey.
Sentencing Williams, Judge Ward said: “I have no doubt of your controlling behaviour in the course of that rather unequal relationship.
“You killed her in the most horrific way imaginable, pouring what you knew to be a flammable liquid mixture of diesel and petrol over her front and back and then you set fire to it, set fire to her, in the house in the kitchen.
“You did so where a number of children could see, but also other adults including adults related to her – her sister.”
Earlier in the trial, witnesses, including the victim’s sister, told how they saw Miss Beattie stagger out of the house in Walworth, south London, into the street covered in flames.
Judge Ward said: “She was aware of her predicament.
” At least in the early stages she must have been in extreme pain. The emergency services had to deal with a situation of utter horror because of what you had done.
“There was a risk that the fire would spread had she collapsed in the kitchen of the terraced house.”
After the attack, Williams was found in a nearby park by police who followed a trial of blood caused by him slitting his wrists.
The court heard he did nothing to try and save Miss Beattie.
Judge Ward continued: “This was a terrible terrible crime. I take into account your age and the fact you have not been convicted of any serious offence before.”
“The sentence is life imprisonment. You will never be released until it’s decided by the parole board that it’s safe to release you.
“It’s been concerning to watch you in this trial and your demeanor, largely impassive sometimes smiling and chuckling inappropriately.
“You are a very dangerous man. You will serve 25 years minimum.”