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Parents who saw son die in fireball after Taser shot by police settle case

Published 18/08/2016

Andrew Pimlott, 32, died after he was Tasered whilst petrol-soaked in 2013.
Andrew Pimlott, 32, died after he was Tasered whilst petrol-soaked in 2013.

The family of a man who died when he was turned into a human fireball after being shot by a police officer with a Taser while soaked in petrol have received an out of court financial settlement.

Andrew Pimlott, 32, had poured the fuel over himself when Pc Peter Hodgkinson fired the 50,000-volt weapon at him during a domestic incident in the back garden of his parents' house on the evening of April 18 2013.

Pc Hodgkinson and his colleague Pc David Beer had answered a 999 call from Mr Pimlott's father, Kelvin, reporting his son was carrying a jerry can of petrol, may have a lighter and was breaching a restraining order imposed by magistrates to stay away.

Just 41 seconds after the two officers arrived at the scene in Honicknowle, Plymouth, Mr Pimlott erupted into flames - dying five days later in hospital from severe burns.

In a narrative conclusion the inquest jury ruled the Taser was the "most likely" cause of Mr Pimlott catching fire but said they did not know whether he was holding a lit match - contrary to the evidence of both police officers.

But the panel said Pc Hodgkinson's actions were "in accordance" with his training.

Now Kelvin Pimlott and his wife Jean have been awarded an undisclosed sum by Devon and Cornwall Police.

The husband and wife, who have both been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, will receive ongoing counselling as part of the settlement.

It comes just days after ex-Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson died when he was shot with a police Taser.

Mr Pimlott said: "We are relieved to have reached the end of this process but it hasn't changed our view that the use of Tasers needs to be very carefully restricted, especially where there are flammable substances.

"My boy was unarmed and posed no threat to anyone. He poured petrol over himself to get attention. He was deeply frustrated and needed help. He didn't want to die.

"If the police had used any other method then my son would still be alive today. We are certain that a Taser should never have been used with Andrew, where he was known to be covered in fuel but was not posing a threat.

"Time and time again, Tasers are proving lethal and they clearly require much more stringent regulation and training to prevent further unnecessary deaths."

Solicitor Ali Cloak, who represents the family, added: "While no amount of compensation will ever make up for what they saw or for the loss of their son, I hope that the settlement will provide some sort of closure and allow them to start rebuilding their lives."

During the inquest in Plymouth last year, the experienced officers said that when Mr Pimlott was stood, covered in petrol and with a lit match in his hand they had no other choice in trying to save his life but to shoot him with the Taser X26.

A pathologist said there was no medical evidence to say how Mr Pimlott caught fire but a forensic scientist said it was his opinion as an experienced fire investigator that the Taser was the cause.

Following the incident a single match was recovered from the garden and a box of matches was found in Mr Pimlott's trouser pocket.

Pc Hodgkinson was cleared of gross misconduct following an internal disciplinary hearing.

A police spokeswoman said: "This has been an extremely distressing matter for all those involved.

"Our thoughts remain with the family at this difficult time. Whilst the outcome of the inquest in 2015 did indicate that the Taser was the most likely cause of the ignition, no criticism was levied at the force or the officer, and confirmed the officer had used his Taser in accordance with national training.

"The matter was independently investigated by the IPCC following which the officer answered the case against him in a subsequent hearing which determined his actions to be appropriate.

"The force has tried to avoid any further distress for Mr Pimlott's family which included making a decision to settle the civil claim in light of the fact they have already endured a series of legal and regulatory processes which examined their son's death.

"We hope this brings some closure for Mr Pimlott's family."

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