Homeless man set on fire in Derry
Those who set a homeless man on fire in the centre of Derry are guilty of a vile and barbaric crime, a Stormont minister has said.
The victim, known only as 'Jimmy', suffered burns to a leg when he was found with smoke pouring from his trousers in Foyle Street on Sunday at around tea-time.
One quick-thinking woman ran to his aid and tried to put out the flames by pouring a bottle of Lucozade over Jimmy's leg.
Nicole Wilson (17), from the Creggan, said she had passed Jimmy on the way to a shop with a friend, Louise Sweeney (18).
"When we came out of the shop, I could smell smoke," she said.
"And them I saw the smoke coming from Jimmy. We rushed over and all we had was a tiny bit of Lucozade Sport, and my friend poured it over his leg."
But the smoke continued to billow from Jimmy's trousers and a man rushed from a nearby bar to help extinguish the fire with pints of water.
Nicole said Jimmy had no idea how the fire had started, and seemed unaware of the danger he had been in.
"He thought he had shingles as his leg had had a weird sensation," said Nicole.
"But he was very grateful to us.
"It was really scary - he was just standing there on fire, not aware of it."
Jimmy - known for his big beard and for wheeling a trolley around the streets - was described as "a harmless critter" by one man who knows him.
It is understood he originally hails from Scotland, where he is said to have been a respected jockey in his younger days.
A confused Jimmy, who is in his mid-50s, refused medical attention in the aftermath of the attack.
Nicole said his leg was bleeding and had bad burns on his lower leg. The flames had burnt through the two pairs of trousers he was wearing.
One man brought Jimmy two pairs of jeans to wear and contacted Foyle MLA and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.
Last night, the SDLP man said he was horrified when he heard what had happened to Jimmy.
"I was contacted by a Good Samaritan whose daughter had actually helped to extinguish the flames that had engulfed this poor man's legs," he said
"We were able to get care to the victim through the swift actions of the team at Damien House.
"Fortunately, the man was not seriously injured and was probably saved by the fact that he was wearing two pairs of trousers due to the cold."
Mr Durkan added: "He doesn't remember what happened. The police are examining CCTV and I would urge anybody with any information on who carried out this disgusting vile act to come forward."
Damien House has been helping the homeless in Derry for 10 years and has 12 accommodation units for those in crisis due to alcohol addiction. It has a night support team which is on-call around the city to help those on the streets.
Jimmy was recovering there last night, where it was hoped he would be seen by a visiting doctor.
It's understood Jimmy is a regular visitor at the hostel.
He has been on the streets for "a long time", according to one man who helped him.
"This was a shocking situation - no two ways about it," said the friend.
"His injuries were pretty bad, and he was burnt through two pairs of trousers. It wasn't a surface burn.
"Had it not been dealt with, it could have been very serious.
"Jimmy is a harmless critter, and it is a shocking disgrace that this could be inflicted on someone.
"It must have been terrifying for him. He is not aggressive."
Another man said Jimmy was very popular and had even been offered places to stay.