“ARROGANT AND EVIL” petrol attackers have been locked up for setting their friend on fire – and then harassed his girlfriend while ambulances arrived.

Former couple Jane Reilly and Alan Archer were lambasted by Judge Samantha Leigh saying their behaviour “beggars’ belief” when they tried to kill the man in Southend.

The duo filled up a five litre can of petrol at a BP garage on London Road in the middle of the night, before going to a house in Southchurch Avenue, Southend, dousing the man with the fuel and setting fire to him twice on October 30, 2019.

As the man ran around in flames, trying to remove his shirt, thug Archer physically attacked him, punching him as he was on the grass trying to extinguish the flames.

The incident was all caught on CCTV.


The crime scene

Archer, 33, of Fairmead Avenue, Westcliff, and Reilly, 53, of Trowbridge Road, Harold Hill, were convicted by a jury of attempted murder at Basildon Crown Court following a three-week trial.

In her damning sentencing remarks, Judge Leigh shared how the two hatched a plan to kill the man after he had pawned a cheap watch given to him by Reilly.

She said: “Archer, you were homeless, and you knew other men from being homeless and knew the victim as well.

“You started up a relationship with Jane Reilly and worked in her pie and mash shop in Southend.

“The victim also worked in the pie and mash shop in an effort to stop drinking. At some point he was given a cheap watch, no more than a few pounds, by Reilly.

“He moved out and said he wouldn’t be working for Reilly anymore.

“Reilly was unhappy about the watch being pawned. It was described as a watch that was very, very cheap that you had got from the market. Whatever it was, it was worth no more than a few pounds.”

He was a friend, and he was repaid by being set alight

Judge Leigh said after buying the can of petrol, Archer had called the victim and asked where he was, confirming via his girlfriend that they were staying at a house in Southchurch Avenue.

Archer and Reilly then arrived at the address and walked up to the front door with the petrol can shortly before 1.30am.

Judge Leigh continued: “Reilly, you threw something at him and Archer you poured petrol over him.

“He turns to run but he’s not free to do so. Archer is then seen to lean in and light him, Reilly also leans in at the same time.

“He then runs to the grass area trying to remove his T-shirt, he threw himself on the floor trying to put the flames out, a perfectly normal reaction. Archer attacks him by punching him.

“Reilly, having followed can in hand, we saw a flash.

“In my view this is not a reignition and I am satisfied there was a second ignition.”

The victim suffered burns to 60 per cent of his body, and when being examined by paramedics, they realised there was nerve damage as he could not feel the areas where he was burnt.

He ended up losing four toes.


The grass area where the victim tried to put himself out

Judge Leigh said that after driving off, Reilly and Archer had driven around several times in the area, even pulling up while the emergency services were present, and shouting at the victim’s girlfriend, who witnessed the attack, asking if she was ok.

The Judge said: “The sheer arrogance of that move shows that the attack was evil and an arranged plan to set fire to him.

“There was some morbid fascination to circle around the area and ask the victim’s girlfriend if she was alright. It beggar’s belief.”

The judge said there was “no other description for someone to have petrol poured on them” than an attempted murder, saying the victim “was completely innocent”.

She said the way the duo acted after the attack was “unpalpable”.

The sheer arrogance of that move shows that the attack was evil and an arranged plan to set fire to him

The court heard that Reilly had previously given evidence but claimed she could not see the monitors or judge’s demonstrations of the CCTV footage when asked.

Judge Leigh said: “The evidence you gave that you couldn’t see the monitor was a performance worthy of an Oscar, but it was dishonest.

“In my view I have seen no remorse from either of you at all. He was a friend, and he was repaid by being set alight.”

The duo were jailed for 24 years each. Reilly showed no emotion, while Archer bowed his head as he was taken down.

The jury failed to reach verdicts on two other defendants present at the time - Paul Bruns, 53, of York Road, Southend, Ben Ince, 41, of no fixed address – and the judge discharged them.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said it will look to pursue a retrial.