Sydney store owner Adeel Khan allegedly set-up an elaborate system of fuel containers around his shop, causing a fire which killed three people.
A Sydney store owner has been charged with the murder of three people, including a mother and her baby, in a fire he allegedly lit in an attempted insurance rort.
In court documents, police allege Adeel Khan, 44, started the blast that destroyed his Rozelle convenience store, in Sydney’s inner west, three weeks ago using an elaborate system of fuel containers placed throughout his shop.
The September 4 fire claimed the lives of Bianka O’Brien, 31, her one-year-old boy, Jude, and neighbour Chris Noble, 27. They were sleeping in apartments above Khan’s store.
Khan was dug out of the debris by emergency crews and has been in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital with serious injuries ever since.
Shortly after the blast, Khan allegedly told paramedics: “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it, I’m so sorry.”
At a bedside hearing on Tuesday, Khan was charged with 25 offences, including three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of manslaughter. He also faces 17 charges related to property damage including one of setting a fire for a financial gain.
He was refused bail and will face Central Local Court on October 21.
Police will allege he “deliberately” and “dishonestly” started the blaze.
“It (is) the belief of police that the accused intentionally set about to destroy his business by fire,” the statement of facts says.
“The intent when doing so was to make a financial claim against his insurance.”
Khan allegedly set up a “complex and elaborate” system of fuel containers in his store and storeroom, which was connected by material cut into strips that were tied together, with parts acting as “wicks”.
Police allege Khan was aware people were living premises above his shop and that he demonstrated a “disregard for human life”.
Court documents say baby Jude woke early on the morning of the fire. His parents comforted him and put him back to sleep.
Ms O’Brien later told her husband, John, it smelt as if someone was spray-painting in their driveway.
John then decided to go to work early, and left about 3.30am.
About half an hour later, emergency crews were at the scene after a blast was reported.
Forensic tests later detected petrol on Khan’s clothes and shoes, and police found a carbon-fibre breathing mask in the pocket of his trousers. Police also allege Khan bought 40 litres of fuel in the days before the fire.
Documents found inside his Greenacre home suggest he was experiencing financial distress and was significantly behind on his bills.
Police also note Khan had increased the value of his store’s insurance this year from $175,000 to $225,000.
Khan denies he was responsible for the fire and claims he was the victim of an armed robbery.
He has told police that three people had stolen thousands of dollars from him and had tied his hands and covered his eyes, before the alleged offenders poured petrol on the floor.
However, police say they have not seen the three people in CCTV footage that has been recovered.
Detective Superintendent Murray Chapman said it had been an usually long investigation due to difficulties accessing the site.
“We have spoken to the families today,” he told reporters.
“They are appreciative and they’re grateful for the police efforts and for the investigation.
“It has been a painstaking, thorough and tedious investigation.”