'Selfish' killer faces victims' relatives

By Sophie Tarr

Relatives of three people who died in a deliberately-lit inferno in inner Sydney two years ago have faced their loved ones' "selfish" killer in court.

Bianka O'Brien, her baby Jude, and their neighbour Chris Noble perished when an explosion and flames tore through Adeel Ahmad Khan's convenience store on Darling Street, Rozelle, in the early hours of September 4, 2014.

Khan had set fire to his ground-floor shop that morning using an elaborate system of petrol containers and wicks in a bid to secure an insurance payout and avoid having to meet lease obligations.

The 46-year-old claimed during his trial that robbers had tied him up for hours and splashed fuel over his shop floor before the blaze erupted.

But the jury rejected that evidence, finding him guilty of murdering 27-year-old Mr Noble, who lived in the flat directly upstairs from his shop, and guilty of the manslaughter of 31-year-old Mrs O'Brien and her 11-month-old son.

He was also found guilty of charges of recklessly wounding and causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Noble's housemates, Todd Fisher and Corey Cameron, and destroying his shop for financial gain.

Khan appeared expressionless in the dock at the NSW Supreme Court on Friday as, one after the other, relatives of his victims gave emotional evidence of the devastation his actions had wrought.

Mrs O'Brien's father, Bill Keremelevski, told the sentencing hearing his daughter had been the family's "shining star".

He met Khan's eyes as he said: "For one man's selfish actions to have caused the death of my beloved daughter Bianka and my grandson Jude, we were left devastated."

Though Mr Fisher and Mr Cameron were able to escape the blaze, the explosion in Khan's shop - which blew out windows on both sides of the street, sent walls tumbling and shot debris across the road - had jammed the door to Mr Noble's bedroom shut.

With metal bars on his windows, Mr Noble had no way out.

"Even after two years, I cannot eradicate from my mind those last few minutes of Chris's life, being trapped in his bedroom," his father Ross Noble told the court on Friday.

He said the last time he was able to hug his son was in the morgue, where Chris Noble's body was wrapped in a white sheet because it had been so badly burned.

"No parent, no brother, no sister - no one should ever have to do that," he said.

Chris Noble's mother Liz spoke of her son's bravery in sending her a text message in his final moments that read simply: "I love you".

Those last words are now tattooed on Mrs Noble's left wrist.

"My son died alone, trapped in a room, knowing that he could not get out," she said.

"To send that message in those circumstances shows the calibre and courage of the life that was taken ... What a pity that the offender lacked those very same qualities."

She said she had once felt sorry for Khan, believing that he had accidentally caused her son's death and that he too had suffered. But during his trial, she witnessed what she believed was the "indifference" he felt over the deaths of Mr Noble, Mrs O'Brien and baby Jude.

Titters of disbelief rippled through the courtroom as Khan's own barrister conceded that nothing in the defence documents handed up on Friday reflected any remorse on the part of the killer.

Justice Elizabeth Fullerton is expected to sentence Khan next Friday.