A man who doused a young woman in petrol and set her on fire has pleaded guilty to the crime.
A man who doused a young woman in petrol and set her on fire has pleaded guilty to the crime.

‘Petrified’ woman set on fire reveals daily struggles

A woman doused in petrol and set on fire by a Queensland man has revealed she still struggles with day-to-day things like brushing hair and lighting gas stoves, more than four years after the heinous attack.

The woman held back tears at Brisbane District Court on Wednesday as she revealed how she still has nightmares from Brae Taylor Lewis's vicious attack and has to be cautious about her skin coming into contact with basic chemicals like detergents and hand soap.

Lewis, now 22, is being resentenced on one count of malicious act with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after successfully appealing his previous conviction and 11-year jail term handed down in 2018.

He pleaded guilty to the charge on Wednesday.

Lewis (pictured) doused the young woman in petrol before flicking a lighter, causing her to burst into flames in May 2016. He is being resentenced on the charge of malicious act with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after successfully appealing his conviction and sentence last year.
Lewis (pictured) doused the young woman in petrol before flicking a lighter, causing her to burst into flames in May 2016. He is being resentenced on the charge of malicious act with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after successfully appealing his conviction and sentence last year.

Crown prosecutor Elisabeth Kelso told the court Lewis indicated he would plead guilty last Friday, the week before his retrial was due to start.

The court was told Lewis and the woman - who cannot be named for legal reasons - were both 17 and living near Brisbane at the time of his offending.

On May 27, 2016, Lewis was cleaning paint off a car using petrol in a beer bottle when he and the woman got into an argument.

After threatening to set her on fire, Lewis grabbed the bottle and threw it at the woman, covering her in fuel before flicking a lighter in his left hand.

It caused the fumes to ignite and covered the young woman in flames.

"One of the witnesses described seeing the skin peeling from her arms and chest," Ms Kelso said

Lewis fled the address when confronted by a neighbour and was arrested a day later.

The woman was placed in an induced coma with extensive burns to her arms, neck, hands, chest, abdomen and left thigh.

In her victim impact statement, she told the court she still struggled to do basic things like washing and dressing herself and brushing her hair because of Lewis' actions.

Brae Taylor Lewis’ victim – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – read an emotional victim impact statement to Brisbane District Court, revealing she still struggles with some basic tasks more than four years after the vicious assault.
Brae Taylor Lewis’ victim – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – read an emotional victim impact statement to Brisbane District Court, revealing she still struggles with some basic tasks more than four years after the vicious assault.

"After everything I had gone through I started a dark, depressing path, turning to old habits trying to deal with the pain and forget about it all," she said.

"I struggle with some day-to-day tasks like lighting a gas stove, I am petrified of putting petrol into any vehicle … I need to always have someone to fill my car up.

"I need to be careful with chemicals that come into contact with my skin as many result in a harmful reaction, like with soaps, detergents and cleaning products.

"I have been forced to learn how to cope with permanent injuries and scarring this assault has left me with … this is a life sentence for me."

The woman's mother appeared with her over video link and said her daughter had lost her freedom because of Lewis' assault.

Ms Kelso submitted Lewis had shown little remorse as he fled the scene and did not come forward to police and had not shown any reflection or insight into his offending in the years since.

In 2018, Lewis was jailed for 11 years at Beenleigh District Court.

Last year, he appealed his sentence and conviction, arguing he only meant to scare the woman and did not intend to cause her harm.

The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial and set aside the guilty verdict, ruling the trial judge had not given proper directions to the jury as to whether he intended to set the woman on fire.

Lewis' defence lawyer Andrew Hoare said his client had always been remorseful and had attempted to extinguish the flames at the time.

"He has always accepted responsibility for the consequences of his actions," Mr Hoare said.

Mr Hoare said Lewis had asked police if he could ride in the ambulance with the woman.

He said Lewis had a difficult upbringing, marred by trauma and the suicide of a family member.

Mr Hoare said Lewis had since undertaken courses and counselling in the years since and his family members had noted he was more mature.

Judge Michael Burnett will deliver his sentence on Thursday. Lewis was remanded in custody.

Originally published as 'Petrified': Woman set on fire reveals daily struggles


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