A tenant who started a fire at his flat in the hope that he would get a move has been jailed for ten years after killing a neighbour.
Junaid Saddiqui set paper alight in the living room of his home in Lincluden Path in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow but it spiralled out of control and claimed the life of Rahul Thakur who died after being overcome by smoke.
Saddiqui, 55, earlier stood trial accused of murdering his victim following the blaze on June 1 last year but was convicted of the lesser crime of culpable homicide.
A judge told Saddiqui that his motivation for committing the crime was “entirely selfish”. Lord Mulholland said: “This was done to speed up your application for sheltered accommodation.”
The judge pointed out that having set the fire and seen it was burning out of control the fire starter left the building and went to a local shop to buy cigarettes.
Lord Mulholland said that tragically his next door neighbour had died and families forced from their homes had to be rehoused costing a housing association £200,000. The judge said that it would cost “millions” to carry out rebuilding work.
He told Saddiqui at the High Court in Edinburgh: “I consider this homicide to be a very serious one”.
He said the killer would have faced a 15-year jail sentence but for his offer to plead to the offence of culpable homicide at an early stage before his subsequent trial.
After the blaze started smoke spread to other flats in the building and an adjacent building and the fire caused extensive damage and endangered the lives of occupants. Fifteen families were forced out of their homes.
Saddiqui told the court that his plan of starting a “little fire” in the hope of getting moved to a sheltered housing complex was a “ridiculous idea”.
He said: “I thought I would start a little fire – it would cause a bit of damage and I would get a move quicker.”
The former airline worker had lived in the top floor flat for three years but maintained that he had asked a housing association for a move.
He claimed that he had wanted to let a bundle of paper in the living room burn a bit before he put it out. He said it quickly got unexpectedly bigger and he decided to escape.
Saddiqui went to a local shop and did not call emergency services as he was now “in a bit of trouble”.
He claimed to an ambulance worker that he had been cooking earlier and left to go to the shop. He told his trial that he was “really upset” at causing the death of a good neighbour.
Defence counsel Ronnie Renucci KC said: “He is acutely conscious of the fact that his actions have caused the death of another and someone he knew and was fond of. He deeply regrets his actions “