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Man sets himself on fire in Torquay Town Hall office

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

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A MAN poured lighter fluid over his body and set fire to himself in front of shocked Torquay Town Hall staff.

Security staff rushed to help the man who it is thought was about to be made homeless.

He had been in the Connections office (pictured) in Castle Circus and was believed to have been seeking re-housing.

It is understood the 18-year-old man was in an agitated state and while staff were calling for an ambulance he reached into his pocket, pulled out a can of lighter fluid which he poured over his legs, setting fire to himself with a lighter.

Today there were calls for an inquiry into the circumstances behind the incident by councillor Darren Cowell.

In the incident it is understood a security officer tried to take the lighter away from the homeless man.

It is believed the security officer dragged the man from the office and rolled him on the floor, extinguishing the flames.

An ambulance was called and the man was taken to Torbay Hospital suffering from burns to his legs and groin. His injuries are not said to be serious.

He was later put in the care of social services due to his mental state.

The incident happened in the Connections office at the side of the Town Hall building on Friday, December 7.

An ambulance crew was first at the scene at about 4.25pm closely followed by two fire crews from Torquay and police.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said paramedics found one person suffering from burns and took him to Torbay Hospital.

By the time fire crews arrived the fire was out and they did not take any further action.

A spokesman for the Devon and Somerset Fire Service said the combustible fluid appears to have came from a cigarette lighter.

He also confirmed the fire had been put out by staff.

It is believed the man walked into Connections and discussed a benefit application.

He is then said to have become unwell, prompting staff to call an ambulance.

Torbay Council could not confirm whether a dispute had taken place.

A spokesperson said: "We can confirm there was an incident within a council building last Friday.

"Council staff and the security team acted immediately to ensure the safety of everyone involved."

The council could not confirm what prompted the man's action but it is believed he was asking to be re-housed by the council's Options team and, although he was known to them, he was not thought to be a serious risk.

Cllr Cowell (pictured) said he is asking for an investigation into the case. He said: "What happened last Friday was an extreme circumstance and hopefully it isn't something we will see repeated. But what I fear is that it might be a sign of things to come as council staff have increasing workloads and changes are being introduced to council tax benefits.

"While I don't know the actual details of what happened, I am going to be making inquiries about whether this was a case of pure frustration because the council could not help or whether there was some failing.

"My feeling is that frustrations come sometimes when the staff's hands are tied because, even though people feel they are entitled, technically they are not."

Torbay MP Adrian Sanders, who had held his constituency surgery in the Connections office that morning, said: "The real issue here is the vulnerability of the people who work in the office and the excellent way they appear to have handled this."

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  • littlevoice  |  December 16 2012, 4:08PM

    Torbay MP Adrian Sanders, who had held his constituency surgery in the Connections office that morning, said: "The real issue here is the vulnerability of the people who work in the office and the excellent way they appear to have handled this." Without descrying the actions of the office staff it is such a shame Adrian Saunders doesn't have the same level of regard for the young man, so desperate as to attempt immolation. He has missed it by a mile - the REAL ISSUE is the vulnerability of those driven to the edge by the policies and actions of this vile 'government'!

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  • Dave_David  |  December 16 2012, 1:30AM

    MaryGee....changed your sex again, how many names do you have...lets see about 60 in the last twelve months is that about right? When you contribute anything of any worth let me know.

    Rate   4
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  • Corsham999  |  December 15 2012, 8:00PM

    We need to care about people and offer hope and love, we should care about people who need our help.Charity is straight from caring peoples hearts, I care, I want to help.

    Rate   12
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  • SarahSmith  |  December 15 2012, 5:16PM

    When I split from my abusive husband who was in the RAF, nobody would help me, as the RAF made me pay to make me homeless, and the local council said if I was there with the military I didn't have local connections to even have emergency accommodation. Luckily I managed to sell my body to have enough money for a deposit to rent a place.

    Rate   6
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  • robocop1982  |  December 15 2012, 3:45AM

    war is big business.

    Rate   -3
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  • SarahLioness  |  December 14 2012, 8:15PM

    Yes @MaryGee, I do want to offer him shelter. Of course I do. Not everyone is self-serving and judgmental. People need to be given the benefit of the doubt. He is a young human being in terrible distress. I care about that. Someone needs to. One day it could be you.....

    Rate   44
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  • MaryGee  |  December 14 2012, 7:50PM

    @ SarahLioness, let me just get my head around this.. You want to let a homeless 18 year old who you do not know into your house. The same guy who sets fire to himself? Coo-koo

    Rate   -41
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  • SarahLioness  |  December 14 2012, 5:46PM

    I want to find this poor man. If anyone knows who he is please tell him I have a room to spare in my home in Torquay. It's not much, but it is available, warm and safe. NOBODY should be driven to such desperate acts just to have a roof over their head - especially in this cold weather!! I can be contacted on facebook as Sarah Lioness. PLEASE, get word to this man that someone will help.... and I don't want anything in return. I'm sure someone would do the same for me if I needed it. There will be plenty more people in this terrible situation due to the political will of the monsters in parliament so we need to start helping each other. Nobody else will...

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  • opengull  |  December 14 2012, 10:32AM

    I've heard Mr Sanders talk about the homelessness issue in Torbay on a number of occassions. I think you've got to be careful reading comments in news stories, as they won't include absolutely everything the MP or Councillor has said to the reporter. Journalists speak to lots of sources whilst compiling a story, and then select certain parts of their discussions to fit into the story.

    Rate   12
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  • nicold  |  December 13 2012, 5:44PM

    Totally agree Gullscorer. Adrian Sanders should have mentioned the problems of the homelessness also!

    Rate   23
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