Four men have been jailed for their part in arson attacks in Leigh and Merseyside which left a grandmother with catastrophic injuries.
Soon after midnight, on Tuesday 16 October 2018, a couple were at home on Montreal Street in Leigh when their windows were smashed and a flammable liquid was thrown inside and set alight.
They managed to escape the inferno but the woman – who is in her 60s - suffered life-changing injuries as a result of the attack.
Once the flames were extinguished, it became apparent that the fire was started deliberately, and an investigation was launched which determined that the lounge window had been smashed and an accelerant thrown inside before being ignited. The fire developed rapidly, enhanced by the fuels involved and the unlimited supply of oxygen.
A Lucozade Sport bottle, with its drinking cap attached, was recovered from the front garden of the property. It contained a green liquid which was tested and found to be a petroleum product. The bottle drinking spout was swabbed, and DNA matching that of Andrew Bamford (01/03/81) was recovered from the drinking spout.
Officers investigating the fire reviewed CCTV footage and identified a dark-coloured saloon taxi in the vicinity of Montreal Street at the time of the incident. Following enquiries with local taxi firms, Zana Ali (08/05/84) was identified as the driver. Officers seized and interrogated Ali’s PDA, which is a device taxi’s use for satellite navigation and job distribution, and the data pinpointed him to the area at the time of the fire.
The date not only gave GPS information identifying Ali’s movements on the day of the arson attack, but it also linked him to an earlier arson attack on a house in Huyton, Liverpool on Sunday 14 October.
On the evening of 13 October 2018, Ali met up with Jake Hignett (07/10/96) and Neil Stanton (22/09/77) at a pub in Leigh, before driving to a petrol station on the A580 ‘East Lancs’. Ali purchased a nine-pack of toilet roll and a bottle of Lucozade Sport. A few minutes later, Stanton entered the shop and purchased a petrol canister before filling it up with petrol and paying for the fuel.
The GPS tracking system revealed the taxi then drove to Mardale Road in Huyton, where it arrived at 12.42am. CCTV images shows two people approach a property via the front gate at 12.46am, before going towards the front door then running away.
Minutes later, emergency services were called to reports of a fire at a house Mardale Road.
No one was at home at the time of the fire, but a dog had to be rescued by the fire service who battled to control the blaze as it tore through the ground floor of the property,
Today, Friday 28 June 2019 at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square, Hignett, Ali, Stanton and Bamford were jailed for their part in the fires.
Jake Hignett (07/10/96) of Kimberley Avenue St Helens was sentenced to 16 years and one month in prison after pleading guilty to arson with intent in relation to the fire at Montreal Street and arson being reckless for the Huyton fire.
Andrew Bamford (01/03/81) of Pendle Road, Golbourne pleaded guilty to arson with intent at Montreal Street and was sentenced to 10 years and nine months in prison.
Zana Ali (08/ 05/84) of Thirlmere Street, Leigh was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to arson being reckless for the Leigh and Huyton fire.
Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Wilkinson of GMP’s Major Investigations Team, said: “These men went to Montreal Street with the intention of putting the lives of the occupants at risk, which nearly cost the life of the elderly lady, and their brutality knows no bounds.
“It was not just bricks and mortar, but people’s lives and homes that were destroyed in these fires, and my thoughts remain with the woman who suffered significant and life changing injuries.
“I would like to thank all the officers involved in what has been a thorough and complex investigation for all their efforts in helping to secure today’s result.”