Oswaldtwistle shopkeeper found guilty of arson for insurance payout

AN Oswaldtwistle shopkeeper who torched his store for for an insurance payout of up to almost £40,000 is facing jail.

Saddaqat Ali, a married father of four, was found guilty of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered on August 11, 2010 and fraud between August and December 2010, after a week long trial at Burnley Crown Court.

The defendant, who had claimed the blaze had nothing to do with him and denied the allegations, was remanded in custody for pre-sentence and psychiatric reports and will be sentenced on March 23, at Bolton Crown Court.

Recorder Mark Ainsworth told Ali, who had no previous convictions: "A prison sentence is inevitable."

The jury had been told how the defendant started the fire at the West End Convenience Store, Blackburn Road, after removing valuable stock from the shelves. He had been seen leaving the premises at about 10.30pm, by a neighbour an regular customer.Not long after, the customer heard a popping sound from the shop.

Worried neighbours risked their lives trying to smash their way in with a sledge hammer, fearing people might be trapped inside.

Firefighters tackled the blaze and came to the conclusion the fire had been started deliberately.

As investigations into the blaze started, four CCTV cameras which had been in the shop appeared to be missing.

The court heard Ali made a claim to his insurance company for damage and business interruption, saying he had been burgled. No cash was ever paid out.

Ali, who had leased the premises for a year at the time, claimed the business had been going well and he had been making a profit.

He insisted the shop had not been in trouble and claimed the first thing he knew about the blaze was the next morning, when he listened to voice messages from loss adjustors on his mobile phone.

Giving evidence, the defendant had told the court that he had left the shop at 9.30pm and had gone to the house of a woman he was having an affair with before driving home.

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