Rozelle store owner guilty of murder
Former Sydney convenience store owner Adeel Ahmad Khan has been found guilty of deliberately setting fire to his shop and of the murder of a man who lived above.
A NSW Supreme Court jury found 46-year-old Khan guilty of murdering Chris Noble, 27, and of dishonestly destroying property by means of fire with a view to gain from the September 2014 inferno.
The 12 jurors are still deliberating whether Khan is guilty of murdering 31-year-old Bianka O’Brien and her baby son Jude, who were Mr Noble’s neighbours and who also perished in the blaze.
Members of Mr Noble’s family quietly gasped and shed tears when the murder verdict was read out on Friday.
Mr Noble and the O’Briens lived above Khan’s Darling St store, and were killed when a large explosion and fire tore through the shop and reduced it to rubble in the early hours of September 4, 2014.
Mr Noble is thought to have become trapped in his room and sent his mother a text message saying “I love you” in his final moments.
Khan, a married father of three, stood staring ahead in the dock facing the jury and showed no visible emotion when the verdicts were handed down.
The jury also found Khan guilty of the grievous bodily harm of Mr Noble’s flatmate Todd Fisher and the wounding of fellow flatmate Corey Cameron, after both were injured in the blaze.
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.
He denied this 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 filmed on CCTV buying 38 litres of fuel which he pumped into water containers.
Justice Elizabeth Fullerton has told the jury if they were left in doubt as to whether the murder of Bianka and Jude O’Brien could be proven, they were obliged to consider the question of manslaughter.