A man in Greater Tainan on Thursday self-immolated in the stairway of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment after she refused to talk face-to-face with him, killing himself and burning one of his girlfriend’s neighbors.
According to the man’s 21-year-old ex-girlfriend, surnamed Chen (陳), she received a call from her 29-year-old ex-boyfriend, surnamed Wu (吳), who worked as a cable television engineer, at 3:21am on Thursday, saying that he was outside her apartment building and he wanted to meet her.
Chen said Wu seemed emotionally unstable and she refused to meet him.
He allegedly called again, hoping to talk things out, but the conversation quickly turned into an argument.
Within five minutes of their second conversation, Chen said she heard over the telephone what sounded like Wu dropping his phone.
She then smelled gasoline before she heard a huge explosion outside her door, filling the stairway with fire.
The explosion broke the windows on the second, third and fourth floors of the stairway, and after the fire was put out, a charred male body was discovered in the stairway between the first and second floors.
Prior to the explosion, Chen’s neighbor, surnamed Tsai (蔡), said he had been playing computer games in his apartment when he smelled gasoline and poked his head out the window to take a look.
Tsai said he saw Wu sitting on the doorstep of his apartment with a plastic container, and after asking if he had spilled the gasoline and receiving an affirmative answer, Tsai opened the door to help clean up and was burned by the flames in the stairway.
According to police, Chen had refused to give details as to why the two had been fighting, and only said that she and Wu quarreled regularly.
Chen was quoted by police as saying that the two had lived together in Greater Tainan’s Yongkang District (永康) two months ago, but after a severe fight, she moved back to her current residence in Annan District (安南), adding that despite repeated telephone calls from Wu, Chen had always avoided meeting him.
Wu had bought about 50 liters of gasoline in two separate containers before heading to Chen’s residence, police said, adding that 80 percent of the container holding 20 liters of gas had been burned, while the other container holding 30 liters had been placed at the front door.
Judging by the power of the explosion and the heavy stench of gasoline in the stairway, police said it was possible that Wu had dumped gasoline from the third floor stairway to the first floor before setting it alight.
Police officers said Wu must have died almost immediately.
Commenting on the case, Greater Tainan Social Affairs Bureau Secretary Lu Wei-yin (呂維胤) urged people to try to remain calm in the face of emotional conflicts, adding that it was better to seek help from psychiatrists or counselors instead of hurting others or themselves.
Giving in to irrational urges during emotional setbacks usually leads to thoughts of harming the individual causing the upset, or harming themselves, Lu said, calling for people to remember that both the life of the individual they are involved with and their own life should be respected.