United Kingdom

Murderer who set fire to block of flats killing 2 men jailed for life

A man has been jailed for life after committing murder, arson and grievous bodily harm. Hakeem Kigundu, aged 32, formerly of Rowe Court, Reading, was sentenced to a whole life order with no minimum term at Reading Crown Court.

Mr Kigundu’s sentence was reached over a two day hearing, which concluded on Friday October 7.

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 December 15 2021, Mr Kigundu deliberately started a fire at a block of flats in Rowe Court, Reading, where he had been a resident.

The fire caused major damage to the building, trapped residents inside, and led to two deaths and two injuries.

Richard Burgess, aged 46, and Neil Morris, aged 45, were killed in the blaze, and all of the residents lost their possessions and homes.

Mr Kigundu was arrested the same day as the crime, and charged on December 17, 2021.

The Ugandan national was believed to have entered the UK illegally using his brother’s passport, bought 40 litres of petrol, a sledgehammer, and a “V For Vendetta” mask in the days before the fire.

He also outlined his intention to kill his neighbours in a voice note, and created an email address with the words “burn them all”.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Holgate said: “I’m sure this was a premeditated attack made by the defendant in revenge.

“Six days before the fire, he made his lethal intentions clear in the audio diary note and the email address.

“Four days before the fire, he bought the petrol from the garages. Three days before, he bought protective goggles and a sledgehammer.

“He had prepared the possessions he wished to take away with him. There is no question of him committing suicide.

“He planned to commit the attack at night, because that would reduce the chance of a resident discovering that huge amounts of petrol had been spread in the rear lobby leading to the staircase on the ground floor and the second floor landing.

“That would also substantially increase the chances of causing death and serious injury.”

He added: “I do not accept that any real remorse has been shown, acceptance of guilt, yes, but not remorse.”

Emily Wiggins, the daughter of Laura Wiggins who was left wheelchair-bound for six months due to the extent of her injuries, also told the PA news agency: “We are really happy with the verdict. We’ve got justice.”

Prosecutor Alison Morgan KC said MR Kigundu planned the attack after growing angry that his neighbours had complained about his antisocial behaviour and losing his job as a BT engineer in the months before.

Lawyer Hayley Garey, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said she hopes bereaved families and survivors feel justice has been served.

She said: “Hakeem Kigundu carried out a premeditated and devastating revenge attack, having planned his actions in the weeks and days beforehand.

“He started the fire in the middle of the night when he knew it would cause the most harm, damage, and ultimately deaths.

“The strength of the evidence gave Kigundu no option but to plead guilty to the charges against him.

“One small consolation is that this saved the victims and witnesses from having to relive their horrific experiences in court.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the victims who were killed, and with the survivors who have lost their homes and most of their possessions.

“We hope this sentence can bring them some sense of justice.”

Senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Sally Spencer, of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said after the conviction: “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.”

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