Landlord in dock for double fatality

The owner of a property in London has been handed a six month suspended jail sentence following a fatal fire that killed two of his tenants.

Thomas McCann, 60, and Hamza Zulfiqar, 21, died in the fire that occurred at around 11pm on 27 July 2011 at 43 Woodlands Road in London E17. The property was acting as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and contained five bedrooms and a shared kitchen and bathroom. Four fire engines and 20 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze, which affected the ground floor, first floor and loft.

At the time of the fire, Mr McCann was in the middle bedroom on the first floor and it is believed that he was unaware of the fire, as it appears he made little or no effort to leave the house. Mr Zulfiqar was in a rear ground floor bedroom, but was unable to escape despite making strenuous attempts to flee. Both died at the scene.

London Fire Brigade fire safety inspectors visited the house the next day and found the following fire safety failings:

  • the only fire exit in the building was the front door and this had a mortise lock which, without use of a key, prevented it from being used in case of an emergency
  • no fire detection system was installed
  • no firefighting equipment was present in the property
  • no fire risk assessment had been conducted
  • no fire doors were installed

Muhammad Ashraf, the property owner, appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 25 September and pleaded guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. In addition to the suspended prison sentence, he was ordered to pay £22,684 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety Neil Orbell said: ‘It is a tragedy that two people’s lives have been lost as a direct result of fire safety failures, and our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr McCann and Mr Zulfiqar.

‘Landlords running houses in multiple occupation have a legal duty to keep their tenants safe from fire. The defendant has fallen very far short of the necessary fire safety standards, which sadly contributed to this terrible loss of life.’