Fiona Hill put out fire in her hair with her hands before finishing test, Trump impeachment inquiry hears

Phil Thomas
Fiona Hill appearing at the public impeachment hearings into Donald Trump: AP

A witness in the impeachment probe has told Congress that when she was a schoolgirl her pigtails were set on fire by a boy during an exam – and that she put the flames out herself before finishing.

British-born Fiona Hill was asked about the incident while giving evidence to members of the House Intelligence Committee after it was raised by Democrat Jackie Speier.

Referring to a profile of Dr Hill in the New York Times, Ms Speier said: "I want to verify this story: I understand that when you were 11 years old there was a schoolboy who set your pigtails on fire.

"And you were taking a test, turned around and with your hands snuffed out the fire and then proceeded to finish your test. Is that a true story?"

Dr Hill replied: "It is a true story. I was a bit surprised to see that pop up today.

"It's one of the stories I occasionally tell because it had some very unfortunate consequences. Afterwards my mother gave me a bowl haircut. So for the school photograph later in that week I looked like Richard III, as if I'm going to be in some permanent play."

With laughter spreading around the committee room, Ms Speier replied: "Well I think it underscores the fact that you speak truth, that you are steely and I truly respect that."

Ms Speier herself survived being shot five times in 1978 during the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana when she visited with congressman Leo Ryan, who was assassinated by the Jim Jones cult.

Dr Hill, who is originally from Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, spoke in her opening statement about how she came to leave Britain for the United States, something her coal miner father had always wanted to do but never managed.

She said: "I can say with confidence that this country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England.

"I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement.

"This background has never set me back in America."

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