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Following an investigation by the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, a man has been jailed for life for murder, arson and GBH, after he set fire to a block of flats in Reading.
Hakeem Kigundu, aged 32, formerly of Rowe Court, Reading, was sentenced to a whole life order with no minimum term at Reading Crown Court over a two day hearing, which concluded today (7/10).
He had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, two counts of grievous bodily harm and one count of arson with intent to endanger life.
On 15 December 2021, Kigundu deliberately started a fire at a block of flats in Rowe Court, Reading, where he had been a resident.
The fire spread, causing major damage to the building, and trapping residents inside.
Tragically, two of the residents, Richard Burgess, aged 46, and Neil Morris, aged 45, were killed.
Two other residents were seriously injured and all of the residents lost their possessions and homes, as a result of Kigundu’s actions.
A large emergency service presence was required at the scene and a major incident was declared.
Kigundu was arrested the same day, and charged on 17 December last year.
Senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Sally Spencer, of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said: “At about 3am on 15 December 2021, Hakeem Kigundu deliberately started a fire at Rowe Court, where he was a resident.
“The fire killed two residents, Richard Burgess, aged 46, and Neil Morris, aged 45, it seriously injured two others, and it destroyed the possessions and homes of all the residents.
“The emergency services were called to the scene. The fire service tackled the blaze, the ambulance crews helped the injured and Thames Valley Police started its investigation.
“Soon after the fire, Hakeem arrived at Reading Police Station, and while outside the station he called 999 to hand himself in. Police officers then arrested him.
“During our investigation, we tried to establish Kigundu’s motive. We found that there had been issues with the defendant causing antisocial behaviour at Rowe Court, by playing loud music and computer games into the early hours.
“Kigundu’s landlord was notified of these incidents of antisocial behaviour, and decided to serve an eviction notice on Kigundu in October to vacate the property by the 15th December – the day he deliberately started the fire.
“Kigundu also lost his job during this period, and it is our case that these events enraged him so much that he decided to set fire to Rowe Court. In police interview the defendant claimed he purchased the petrol for another purpose and had feelings of rage and suicide at the time, although he changed his mind about harming himself.
“However, there is no doubt in my mind that his abhorrent crimes were pre-mediated; he purchased containers and a total of 50 litres of petrol from several petrol stations in the build up to the fire.
“During this period, Kigundu also created a new email account called [email protected] and recorded a sinister audio note on his mobile phone, which we found during our investigation in which he says ‘all the actions I am about to take are warranted, believe me’.
“Kigundu poured petrol in the stairwell and lit the fire in the middle of the night, when he knew his neighbours would be asleep, giving them little chance of escaping the building.
“The families of Neil and Richard in particular have had to endure the unimaginable pain of waiting weeks for the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered from the site, as the building was so badly damaged that it was unsafe to remove them more quickly.
“I want to once again thank the families of Neil and Richard, all the residents of Rowe Court who have lost their homes, and the wider community for their cooperation and support during this traumatic period.
“My thoughts, and the thoughts of everyone at Thames Valley Police remain with the families and friends of Neil and Richard and all residents of Rowe Court who lost their possessions and homes.”