Homeless man jailed for setting police officer on fire as he tried to evict him

A homeless man who doused two police officers with petrol before setting fire to one of them has been jailed for more than 10 years.

Blagovest Hadjigueorguiev, 30, had been camping on Duchy of Cornwall land in Newquay without permission for months and refused to leave despite being served with eviction notices.

Officers were called to help remove Hadjigueorguiev and his belongings from the field, next to a school, on September 11.

A court heard Hadjigueorguiev picked up a cider bottle containing petrol and threw it at two officers, PC Darral Mares and his colleague PC Alan Lenton.

He then threw the remainder of the petrol from the bottle onto his camp fire – causing flames to ‘explode’ over PC Mares, 51.

PC Lenton immediately went to his colleague’s aid despite being soaked in petrol himself, and rolled PC Mares on the ground to extinguish the flames.

PC Mares was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital after suffering burns to his inner thighs and left hand.

He was in hospital for two days before spending four weeks ‘incapacitated at home’ and used a wheelchair for mobility.

Judge Robert Linford said the officers were ‘calm, professional and non-confrontational’ before the attack.

The judge described how Hadjigueorguiev had threatened to set the officers on fire, which he repeated as they came towards him.

Hadjigueorguiev admitted charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to PC Mares and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent to PC Lenton.

‘As constables Mares and Lenton approached you, you threw a bottle of petrol over them,’ the judge told Hadjigueorguiev.

‘As you did so, PC Mares was set on fire. It was a sickening thing to see and hear him burnt.

‘He tried to extinguish the flames that in particular burnt his hands and his legs.

‘It was a wicked, deliberate and extremely violent act, directed at a man who had previously tried to help you.’

The judge jailed Hadjigueorguiev for 10 years and six months for the attack on PC Mares, and six years for the attempted attack on PC Lenton. The sentences will run concurrently.

He issued a commendation to PC Lenton for his heroic actions.

‘It was a brave and selfless act of one police officer acting to help another,’ the judge said.

In a victim personal statement, PC Mares detailed how he underwent ‘excruciatingly painful’ treatment in hospital for his burns.

‘He remains on medication and bears the physical scars of your wicked attack on him,’ the judge told Hadjigueorguiev.

Ms McCarthy told the court that PC Mares – a popular officer in Newquay and a former soldier in the Army – had been due to retire from the police force in less than a year.

She added that PC Lenton had suffered the psychological effects of watching his friend and colleague being attacked.

‘PC Lenton was miraculously not burned,’ Ms McCarthy said.

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