Mate set on fire in 'Jackass' copycat

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 12:58 11/09/2012
Matt-Dillion Shannon
Fairfax NZ
ACCUSED: Matt-Dillion Shannon leaves court in Napier.

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A teenager who celebrated his 17th birthday by pouring petrol on a friend and setting him on fire blames his action on the TV show Jackass.

About 70 people attended Matt-Dillion Shannon's party in Hastings on August 13 last year, including the victim, who had just got over glandular fever.

About midnight, the victim began feeling tired. He left the living room and sat on the floor of Shannon's bedroom. He said he had not been drinking because of his illness.

In a police interview played to a jury in the High Court at Napier yesterday, he said Shannon, now 18, entered the room, picked up a 10-litre plastic petrol container, then left before returning with about eight other people.

He heard Shannon say, "Get him", then three people grabbed him and held him down.

"He [Shannon] was laughing. He picked up the petrol can and was pouring it over me," the victim said. "It felt wet and warm. I thought it was just water. When I figured out it wasn't, I freaked out."

Shannon then pulled a lighter from his pocket. "I said, ‘Matt, please don't do this.' I was begging him."

But Shannon and the others continued to laugh as he put the lighter to the victim's T-shirt. Flames shot up the T-shirt on his back, on to his neck and the side of his face.

The three people, whose names are suppressed, held the victim down for about 20 seconds until he broke free.

"It was like nothing you could imagine you'd ever feel," he told police.

"It was the most excruciating thing you could imagine, times 10."

He ran out of the room and pulled off his burning T-shirt. No-one tried to help him, apart from one teen who patted down the flames on his neck.

He then got on his bicycle and cycled home shirtless.

His mother recalled hearing her son's screams as he rode toward their house.

He was admitted to Hawke's Bay Hospital at 2.28am and treated in the intensive care unit.

In a police interview played to the jury, Shannon said the victim was very drunk and had vomited through Shannon's bed. Partygoers began talking about drinking petrol, then about a Jackass movie where people were set alight.

Shannon decided to do the same to the victim. He claimed to have poured about 10ml of petrol from a shot glass over him.

On the stand, the victim was adamant Shannon poured the petrol from the container, and denied drinking alcohol or vomiting. Police found no trace of vomit.

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Prosecutor Russell Collins said the victim "was the subject of a most serious case of bullying".

While the Jackass movies depicted people doing stupid things, they did not show people being held against their will having petrol poured over them and set alight.

Shannon has pleaded guilty to a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard but not guilty to a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

His lawyer, Bill Calver, said Shannon did not intend to cause serious harm. He thought the victim would "roll around, put the fire out, no harm done, and it would be a big laugh for all those present".

DUMB AND DUMBER

Jackass was an American reality-television series, broadcast on MTV from 2000 to 2002, where people performed dangerous or crude stunts and pranks.

The show prompted three feature-length films.

- The Dominion Post

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