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Khan gets 30 years for fatal explosion

AAP logoAAP 4/08/2016 By Toby Mann and Andi Yu

An arrogant, ignorant shopkeeper who murdered a man and killed a mother and her baby after igniting a rig of fuel reservoirs which caused a massive explosion committed the crime over about $12,000 of debt.

Adeel Ahmad Khan was on Friday sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail over the murder of Chris Noble, 27, and the manslaughter of 31-year-old Bianka O'Brien and her 11-month-old son Jude, who all died when an explosion and flames tore through his Rozelle convenience store in the early hours of September 4, 2014.

Khan had also recklessly wounded and caused grievous bodily harm to Mr Noble's housemates, Todd Fisher and Corey Cameron, who lived together in a unit above the 46-year-old's shop.

They had managed to escape the inferno via a balcony at the rear of their second-storey apartment after banging on Mr Noble's door, confirming he was awake and hearing him yell out that he was coming.

"It was not until they were at street level that they realised he was not with them," Justice Fullerton said.

"Neither the best efforts of Fire and Rescue officers nor the attempts by Mr Cameron and Mr Fisher to clamber back onto the balcony to rescue Mr Noble before they were forced back by the intensity of the heat generated by the fire, were successful."

The fatal fire was lit in a bungled attempt to swindle a $225,000 insurance payout as Khan sought to meet his monthly rental cost of $8,800 and pay a $3,435 overdue electricity bill, the Supreme Court heard.

Two days before the fire, Khan had purchased 38.82 litres of petrol in four large plastic containers.

In a desperate bid to burn his shop down - a move that he hoped would not only net him an insurance windfall but would allow him to walk away from the lease he was struggling to afford - Khan arranged between eight and 12 containers of fuel throughout his shop and its storeroom.

"The containers were loosely linked together by torn strips of fabric and doused in petrol as trailers or as makeshift wicks," Justice Fullerton said.

"Some containers were housed within milk crates that had been packed with paper or cardboard to add to the fuel load.

Khan ignited the "highly volatile explosive mixture of air and petrol vapours inside the storeroom" with a cigarette lighter causing an explosion so fierce it blew a door off the back of the shop, and within milliseconds of the explosion a fireball ripped through the shop at about 280C.

When Khan was later pulled from under debris by emergency services he apologised repeatedly and was also heard to say "I didn't mean it".

But when later interviewed by police, Khan denied this and said he was tied up and robbed by three armed robbers who had jumped him as he was closing up for the night.

The fuel, he said, was for an experiment with his car.

He further denied being in financial trouble and said he had access to $50,000.

Justice Fullerton, however, rejected Khan's version of events.

"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," she said.

"I am unable to determine whether this conduct was borne of rank ignorance or arrogance or a blind determination to pursue his own selfish objectives at any cost, or a combination of all three."

Outside court, Mr Noble's mother Liz said she was grateful she would be dead by the time her son's murderer is up for parole.

"I don't need to think about him spending time with his family when we can't spend time with our family," she said.

Khan will first be eligible for parole on September 22, 2044.

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