Arsonists jailed after blaze at east London care home they started with Roman Candle firework
PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 December 2016 | UPDATED: 17:44 19 December 2016
Two men are behind bars after being tracked down by detectives for firing high-power fireworks into a care home which left a woman in a wheelchair fighting for her life.
Donna Stringer was asleep when fireworks crashed through the window into her ground-floor bedroom, leaving her trapped with severe burns and unable to breathe in the toxic smoke filling the room.
Aktaruz Jaman Khan was jailed for a total of seven years at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Thursday.
His accomplice, Sabbir Ahmed, was jailed for six years and also jailed for a further eight months for breaching a suspended sentence for bringing a stun gun into Heathrow airport.
The 23-year-olds from Stepney Green admitted at a court hearing in September to being reckless about endangering life and intending to destroy or damage property.
They threw a Roman Candle-type firework into the Lynnwood Care Home in Barking at 1am on November 13, 2015, which set fire to the ground floor flat where 43-year-old Donna, who has learning difficulties and needs a wheelchair, was sleeping.
She had to be rescued by fire-fighters and was rushed to hospital in a critical condition with severe burns to her arms and neck and internal injuries from inhaling smoke.
Donna’s breathing had to be aided by a tube in her neck for several weeks and she was under sedation for nearly two months in a critical condition.
Her injuries are “severely life changing” despite her gradual recovery, hospital doctors have told police. She is unlikely to have the full use of her hands again.
“These two men left a permanent physical and emotional mark on Donna,” Det Sgt Karl Dines said.
“Donna and her family have a tough time ahead—but my investigators found these cowards and have brought them to justice.”
His detectives arrested Ahmed at his home Doveton Street, off Globe Road, Stepney Green, on December 2 last year. Khan, from nearby Rickman Street, handed himself in at Barking police station six days later.
A vehicle was seen briefly on a CCTV with fireworks being thrown towards houses just before the fire. Detectives identified it as a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and eventually managed to cross-reference its registration—which led them to Ahmed and Khan, both named drivers on the vehicle insurance policy.
Khan—in addition to his jail sentence—was ordered to give £604 recovered from his rented car at the time of arrest to Donna’s mum and another £1,500 compensation to Donna. Ahmed was also ordered to pay Donna £1,500.
Judge Patricia Lees said: “The fear Donna must have felt being woken up by the explosion and finding herself trapped in a burning bedroom is difficult to comprehend.”
She praised the firefighters who rescued Donna from her bedroom and a “heroic” neighbour who saved eight others when he entered the care home and escorted them to safety before trying to put the flames out displaying “extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety”.
Ahmed and Khan had developed a taste for setting off fireworks in public places after using them in pranks, the court heard.
They put a firework through a friend’s letterbox and fired one from a shoe at a friend in an alley.
The judge called the firebombing a “sustained and heartless attack”—but acknowledged that Donna’s injuries were accidental as the fireworks had been let off as a prank that didn’t seek to injure anyone in the care home.
The blaze caused £30,000 damage and a further £50,000 to find accommodation for the care home tenants.
Donna is now able to walk again, but only for short distances, and has now returned to the care home in Barking.