At his 18th birthday party, Stephen Simpson suffered a horrible fate. The awkward young man, who had Asperger’s Syndrome and difficulties with learning and speech, invited friends to celebrate his big day at his flat in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England. As Simpson, who was openly gay, became more and more drunk, his so-called friends taunted him, pressuring him to take off his clothes. In what a judge called “good-natured horseplay” and a prosecutor described as “cruel behavior,” Simpson was made to dance around the room and had obscene words written on his body.
What happened next, judge, prosecution and defense all agree, was heinous. Jordan Sheard, 20, barely knew Simpson but nonetheless showed up at his party. When Simpson was drunk, nearly naked and disoriented, a party goer took a bottle of tanning oil and poured it all over him. Urged by chanting guests to “light it! light it!,” Sheard brought a cigarette lighter to Simpson’s groin. The young man went up in flames.
Stephen Simpson suffered burns on 60% of his body and died two days later at a local hospital. Sheard, who had fled the scene, initially claimed that Simpson lit himself on fire. He eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to three and a half years.
According to Sheard’s lawyer, his client is “deeply and significantly affected by what he has done and the tragic consequences that ensued from it.”