sohail ashraf manchester

Fire obsessed teenager sentanced to four-years after starting £500,000 mill blaze

A fire-obsessed teenager who started a devastating £500,000 blaze at a converted Bradford mill has been labelled a public danger and locked up for four years.

Eighty firefighters with 15 fire engines battled the flames at the building on Rebecca Street on December 19, 2017, after Hamza Nadeem, 19, lit tyres stored in the basement.

Nadeem, who was living in a hostel on Coates Avenue, off Manchester Road, Bradford, was convicted of arson after a trial at Bradford Crown Court last June.

He was brought from custody to be sentenced for starting the blaze in a grudge attack on YA & Co solicitors, one of a number of firms housed in the historic mill, reports Telegraph and Argus.

Nadeem, who has cognitive impairment, refused to identity himself to the court clerk and sat hunched in the dock with his head tucked down throughout the hearing.

Prosecutor Glenn Parsons said Nadeem had “a real or imagined grievance” against the solicitors and told his support worker at the hostel he was going to burn down the building.

The support worker contacted the police when he read about the massive mill blaze.

The court heard that Nadeem had a fascination with fire from when he was a young child.

Footage on his phone showed him running towards, and standing near to, large fires.

He was believed to have started the mill fire by lighting the tyres in the basement with a naked flame.

Nadeem’s barrister, Simeon Evans, said his mental health problems were diagnosed when he was seven, but appointments were not attended and he was taken to Pakistan for lengthy periods of time.

He had no previous convictions and had caused no problems at the hostel but his childlike view of the world led him to talk about witches and aliens.

He had struggled during the year he had already been in custody, playing with toy cars and spending most of the time in his cell.

Mr Evans said that although Nadeem was very interested in fire, there was no evidence that he had started any of the fires filmed on his phone.

He had not been diagnosed as a pyromaniac and seemed more interested in the fire engines that responded to blazes.

The trial judge, Recorder Simon Eckersley, said Nadeem had deliberately targeted the converted mill because of his perceived issue with the solicitors based there.

“This was premeditated, deliberately planned and conceived,” he said.

Cost to repair the building was £500,000 but that did not include financial damage to the businesses housed there.

Nadeem was only 18 at the time, immature and with no previous convictions.

But, the judge told him: “You have a history of fascination with fire.”

In 2007, his mother had raised concerns about the obsession.

Nadeem claimed to have set fire to a tractor and to a transforming unit while in Pakistan.

He filmed fire and got excitement and enjoyment from witnessing blazes and their aftermaths.

“I am satisfied on all the evidence that you present a significant risk of causing serious harm to the public by the commission of offences of arson,” the judge said.

Nadeem was sentenced to four years in a young offender institution, with a four-year extended licence period.

He will serve at least two thirds of the custodial element of the sentence behind bars.

Recorder Eckersley said that if a Hospital Order was needed for Nadeem in the future, he would be transferred to hospital from prison.