Adeel Ahmad Khan was cleared of murdering Bianka O’Brien and her 11-month-old son Jude in 2014 Rozelle blaze
A former Sydney convenience store owner has been found guilty of manslaughter over the deaths of a mother and her baby who died in a fire at his shop in 2014.
A New South Wales supreme court jury on Tuesday found Adeel Ahmad Khan not guilty of murdering 31-year-old Bianka O’Brien and her 11-month-old son Jude but convicted the former shopkeeper of their manslaughter.
O’Brien and her son lived above Khan’s shop in Rozelle and died in the September 2014 blaze.
On Friday the jury convicted Khan, 46, of deliberately starting the fire and also of the murder of the O’Briens’ 27-year-old neighbour Chris Noble, who lived directly above Khan’s shop.
During Khan’s trial the jury was told that to return a murder verdict the Crown had to prove the shopkeeper knew the risk his actions would kill people nearby.
The O’Briens and Noble died when a large explosion and fire tore through the convenience store and reduced it and the apartments above to rubble in the early hours of 4 September.
O’Brien’s body was found the next day lying across her baby.
Her electrician husband, John O’Brien, escaped harm after he left the unit to go to work about half an hour before the blast.
John O’Brien told Khan’s trial that not long before the explosion, his wife had smelled spray paint and suspected there were graffiti vandals downstairs.
However when he went to investigate he noticed nothing unusual.
Noble, who is thought to have become trapped in his room, texted his mother “I love you” in his final moments.
Khan had shown no remorse for killing three people and was a man “focused only on his own needs”, said mother Liz Noble outside court after Khan was found guilty of the manslaughter of O’Brien and Jude.
“The accused has never expressed any remorse or sorrow for the lives taken and that has been really, really difficult for us,” Liz Noble told reporters on Tuesday, four days after Khan was found guilty her son’s murder.
At his trial, Khan was accused of placing petrol-filled containers around his shop and lighting the fire in order to secure an insurance payout and to avoid lease obligations.
Prosecutors suggested he was under extreme financial pressure and had debts of nearly $400,000.
But the married father of three denied he started the fire and testified that robbers had tied him up for hours, spilled fuel on the shop floor and left shortly before the blaze erupted.
Two nights before the fire Khan was caught on CCTV buying 38 litres of fuel which he pumped into containers.
He was buried under debris in the explosion, and told emergency workers who rescued him that he was sorry.
A face mask was found in his pocket.
The jury retired on 2 June after a three-week trial.
Original source: The Guardian