Wrongly accused man burnt alive

A Christchurch father wrongly accused of being a paedophile died from horrific burn injuries after having petrol poured over him and being set alight by two "vigilantes", a court heard today.

Shay Barry Webster, 22, and Jason Alistor Barr, 44, were jailed for more than five years each at Christchurch High Court this morning after earlier pleading guilty to the manslaughter of 55-year-old Terry Martin Smith.

The full facts of the Christchurch killing on Anzac Day last year has now been revealed for the first time.

"This was not a quick death but an agonising one," Judge Cameron Mander said.

As Webster and Barr were sentenced, a packed public gallery heard how they were of the mistaken belief that Smith was a paedophile.

All three had been drinking at a Woolston family BBQ.

Webster and Barr were drunk when they accused Smith of having a sexual interest in children.

Smith vehemently denied the allegations - his innocence later confirmed by police - but was cornered in his bedroom where Barr poured petrol over him.

Both Webster and Barr had cigarette lighters when another man came into the room after smelling petrol, the court heard.

They were calling him "a dirty peado", the man later told police.

Barr told Smith: "You peado scum - you're lucky I don't set you on fire."

As the witness moved to diffuse the situation, Webster flicked a lighter twice in the air just 30cm from Smith.

On the second strike, petrol fumes "ignited in a ball of flames", setting Smith ablaze.

Webster tried to pat out the fire, while Barr put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.

Smith managed to phone 111, as did Barr before putting him in the shower.

An ambulance rushed Smith to Christchurch Hospital.

Shortly before he was put into an induced coma that he would never wake from, he told police that Barr had poured petrol on him and Webster had set him on fire.

His family rushed to his bedside.

He was transferred to Auckland's Middlemore Hospital where he underwent a number of surgeries for burns to 29 per cent of his body, including his face, neck, shoulders, torso, both arms and upper thighs. He also suffered a severe lung injury.

He died as result of his injuries on May 8 last year.

Barr, of Waltham, and Webster, of Woolston, were charged with murder but later pleaded guilty to amended charges of manslaughter.

Ex-wife of 12 years, Michelle Smith told the court today that she struggled to see how anyone could treat another human being that way.

"I hope Terry can rest in some kind of peace."

She has also had to witness their 19-year old son Aaron's pain caused by their actions.

Aaron Smith told of his shock at seeing his father in hospital that first night, where he "kept remembering the smell of petrol around my dad".

"I would not wish this on anyone," he said.

"Shay Webster and Jason Barr, through your actions, you took my dad from me."

Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh said it was "hard to think of a more painful and frightening way to die".

He described the pair embarking on vigilante justice.

"It was about retribution against a perceived paedophile."

A charge of murder was not pursued because of difficulties in trying to prove murderous intent, Mr Zarifeh said.

Both Barr and Webster have more than 50 previous convictions each.

Judge Cameron Mander said both killers had troubled childhoods.

He agreed they were equally culpable.

Defence counsel Serena Bailey, appearing for Webster, said it was an alcohol-driven reckless incident which resulted in a "distressing, unintended tragedy".

An offer of a restorative justice conference with Webster was not welcomed by the family.

However, the family has agreed to take part in restorative justice with Barr, according to his defence counsel, Kirsten Gray.

The meeting will take place after sentencing, where a remorseful Barr will apologise and "somehow explain how things unfolded" that day.

Barr was jailed for 5 years, 7 months with a minimum non-parole period of two years, nine months.

Webster was sentenced to 5 years, 3 months in jail, with a minimum non-parole period of two years, six months.

By Kurt Bayer of NZME. News Service

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