Sydney, August 9: A Pakistani Australian, Adeel Ahmad Khan, former IT consultant, has been sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail.
“It is just a very cruel twist of destiny for the Khans”, said a Pakistani Australian who now lives in Melbourne and knows the Khans from the time he was living in Sydney.
“I could not think of him ever doing anything like this” he told Bharat Times.
“Khan holds a double Masters, in Maths (Pakistan) and in IT (University of Technology Sydney) and teaching qualifications from the University of New South Wales. Khan has worked in Pakistan, Australia and the United States”, he added.
Earlier, Adeel Khan had been found guilty of killing three people and injuring two others by setting fire to his convenience store in Rozelle, Sydney.
About Adeel Khan
Adeel Khan emigrated to Australia in 1996, later becoming an Australian citizen. He has been married for 22 years. He has three children aged 15, 17 and 20 years old.
His wife Naima Adeel Khan also provided an affidavit to the court for sentencing purposes. BT believes Mrs Khan confirmed Adeel Khan remains committed to her and their children. BT further believes she prayed to the court for mercy as the family would suffer while her husband remains incarcerated.
The judge did not consider the impact of the Khan’s incarceration on his wife and children as an ameliorating factor when deciding his sentencing.
In 2009, he moved to the United States with his family where he lived for two years, working as a consultant in information technology and in his family’s retail business. His parents and extended family live in the United States. He returned to Australia with his family in 2012. On his return, he registered a company with the intention of developing software modules for small businesses and other industries.
He had signed up for a 5 year lease in late 2013 to set up, fit out and start a convenience store at 627-629 Darling Street Rozelle. The lease commenced in December 2013 with a monthly rental bill of $8,800.
According to the court documents, as early as April 2014, Khan tried to unsuccessfully sell the business. The court heard, by September 2014, Khan was in financial strife.
“As at 4 September 2014 an electricity bill in the amount of $3,435 was overdue, as was the current monthly payment of rent. The offender did not have access to sufficient funds to discharge those debts”, Judge Elizabeth Fullarton said.
The only way – in the lease – for Adeel Khan to get out of five year lease – was if the building caught fire.
Adeel Khan, in his defence, to counter the allegation of financial gain told the court that although his business had not been profitable, he had withdrawn approximately $50,000 from the business to meet his debts.
His attempt to dissuade the court on ‘financial gain’ theory was unsuccessful.
The court heard, accepted and found Adeel Khan guilty of setting the building on fire. The fire got out of control and in the process, despite best efforts of all of the emergency workers on the scene, three people died, two were grievously injured.
People who died as a result of that fire were: Chris Noble 27, Bianka O’Brien 31 and her son Jude O’Brien only 11 months old.
People who were injured were Todd Fisher and Corey Cameron.
The death of of 27-year-old Chris Noble was found to be murder, and those of 11-month old Jude and his 31-year-old mother Bianka O’Brien, were found to be manslaughter.
Khan, 46, was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Noble’s flatmate, Todd Fisher, wounding a second flat-mate, Corey Cameron.
Mr Noble and his flatmates lived above the store and Ms O’Brien and her family lived in a neighbouring unit to the building Adeel Khan has been found guilty of setting on fire.
On the night of the fire, at about 4.30am, Adeel Kahn was found by Fire and Rescue officers buried in debris on the rear pathway close to the rear storeroom at the back of his store. His car was parked in the driveway with the keys in the ignition. Ten litres of petrol were found in a plastic container in the car. Forensic testing of Adeel Khan’s clothing indicated a strong presence of petrol. A protective face mask was found in Khan’s pocket and a piece of grey plastic in his clothing.
The court heard that whilst being removed from the debris Adeel Khan repeatedly said to the attending ambulance officers that he was “Sorry”. He was also heard to say, “I didn’t mean it”.
Initially those utterances were taken as Adeel Khan’s admissions which according to the court he later retracted.
Adeel Khan maintained throughout the trial he was sorry for those Ambos who had to really go through a lot in order to extricate Khan from the debris.
And he had never said, “I didn’t mean it”.
Adeel Khan told the court there were three robbers in his store minutes before it was set on fire and it was them (the robbers) and not Khan who had set the store on fire.
But the court said it did not believe Adeel Khan’s story.
Adeel Khan’s evidence rejected
“…the offender’s evidence (as with his account to police within two days of the incident) was a fabrication deliberately and carefully constructed by him to avoid criminal liability for the deaths, injuries and the destruction of property for which he knew he was solely responsible.
“I reject the offender’s denials that he said to the ambulance officer that he “didn’t mean it”, the sentencing judge said.
“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offender’s motivation in planning for and deliberately setting and igniting the fire was personal, financial gain,” Justice Fullerton said.
“The extent of harm is reflected in the loss of three lives in a major fire … and the injuries caused to two others,” she said.
Justice Fullarton sentenced Adeel Khan to a maximum of 40 years (aggregated) imprisonment with a non-parole period of 30 years. Adeel Khan has been in custody since 23 September 2014.
Adeel Ahmad Khan,who has no prior criminal history, will be eligible for parole on 22 September 2044. He will be 74 when he gets out.