Two guilty of triple blaze deaths
A used-car salesman has been found guilty of murdering his estranged wife, their young son and his father-in-law by setting fire to their family home following the collapse of their marriage.
Danai Muhammadi, 24, was fuelled by "spite, anger and resentment" when he killed Melissa Crook, 20, and their 15-month-old son Noah by torching the house in Chatham Hill, Chatham, Kent.
Mrs Crook's father Mark Crook, 49, was left critically ill with severe burns in hospital following the fire just before 2.30am on September 10 last year and died six days later.
Muhammadi and his friend, bouncer Farhad Mahmud, 35, squirted petrol through the letter box using a garden spray container, leading to fire breaking out at the base of the stairs. Mahmud was also found guilty of three counts of murder.
Muhammadi's new girlfriend, jobless Emma Smith, 21, was cleared of three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder but convicted of three counts of manslaughter after a six-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court. Muhammadi and Mahmud were also found guilty of two counts of attempted murder.
The jury reached their verdicts after deliberating for 13 hours and 31 minutes. Muhammadi and Mahmud showed no emotion as they learned of the verdicts flanked by security guards and interpreters.
In the public gallery, survivors Amanda and Bohdan Crook shook visibly and hugged each other as the jury foreman read out the verdicts in front of a packed courtroom. As Judge Mr Justice Sweeney said that Muhammadi and Mahmud faced life behind bars, a family member shouted "good".
The judge told the jury: "There can be very few criminal cases which are as taxing for a jury than this one must have been. I don't suppose any of us are going to forget some aspects of the evidence we have heard about the fire."
Prosecutors said the arson was a "wicked attack" which had been well planned following the breakdown of the marriage between Iraqi-born Muhammadi and Mrs Crook. Six months earlier, she decided to move out of their home in Coventry with their son and return to her parents' home in Chatham after Muhammadi slapped her around the face after she refused to have sex with him one night.
In the months following their split, Muhammadi, of Britannia Street, Coventry, started a relationship with Smith but she became resentful of her new partner's attempts to patch up his marriage with Mrs Crook, jurors heard. A series of angry text messages were exchanged between Smith, of Barley Lea, Stoke Aldermoor, Coventry, and Mrs Crook in the days and weeks leading up to the arson, in which Smith taunted her love rival.