He killed three people, injured two and ripped out the hearts of thousands – all for a $225,000 insurance payout. Yet convenience store owner Adeel Ahmad Khan, 46, refuses to admit that he set fire to his Rozelle shop, causing a fatal explosion early on September 4, 2014.
On Friday, he was sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court to a minimum of 30 years for the murder of Chris Noble, 27, and the manslaughter of Bianka O’Brien and her baby son Jude.
The father-of-three was sentenced to a maximum of 40 years. He will be eligible for parole on September 22, 2044.
Mr Noble’s family let out a small gasp of relief after Justice Elizabeth Fullerton read out the sentence.
Khan stared straight ahead and did not show any emotion.
The sentence included a jail term for causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Noble’s flatmate Todd Fisher, wounding his second flatmate Corey Cameron and destroying the building for financial gain.
Outside of court Liz Noble said she could not understand how a family man could have done what he did to so many other families.
“I for one am very grateful that by the time he gets out of jail I won’t be here anymore. I don’t need to think about him spending time with his family when we can’t spend time with our family,” she said as her voice cracked.
“I think Chris would be pleased with the result today and I think now we can actually concentrate on Chris and live in the best way we can to honour Chris,” she said.
During her sentencing remarks Justice Fullerton said Khan’s setting and lighting of a petrol fuelled fire was “offending of the most serious kind”.
“That he did not anticipate or even consider the probability, if not the certainty, of an immediate explosion, or its force, from the quantity of petrol he dispersed simply beggars belief,” 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.”
Mr Noble lived directly above Khan’s Darling Street shop and the O’Brien family lived above a phone shop next door.
Knowing that people lived above, Khan set up an elaborate network of 10 petrol containers throughout the store – connected by strips of petrol-soaked material – and then set it all on fire.
Throughout his trial he maintained that three armed robbers tied him up for five hours before setting fire to his shop.
This was despite CCTV footage capturing him filling up containers with 38 litres of petrol at a service station two days before the fire.
During the trial, the court heard how Mr Noble sent his mother, Liz Noble, a text at 4.08am, saying “I love you” while he was trapped in the inferno.
The words will remain with his mother forever – and she has them tattooed on her wrist.
Mr Fisher and Mr Cameron escaped from the burning building by jumping off the balcony, but Mr Noble could not get out because his door was jammed and there were metal bars on his window.
During Khan’s sentencing hearing in July, Mr Cameron told the court in his victim impact statement that he could still hear the haunting echo of his flatmate’s cries.
“After escaping what I thought would surely be the end of me, I had to helplessly listen to my best mate, Chris Noble, scream for his life,” Mr Cameron said.
The father of Mrs O’Brien, Bill Keremelevski, told the sentencing hearing that his family had suffered an “unimaginable tragedy” due to one man’s selfish actions.
“Mr Khan, what you have done – you can’t even imagine how many people you have affected and how many hearts you have ripped out,” Mr Keremelevski said.