Arsonist’s chilling voicenote outlining plan to kill neighbours read in court

A chilling voicenote recorded by an arsonist in the days before he killed two of his neighbours in a fire has been played to a courtroom packed with bereaved relatives and survivors.

Hakeem Kigundu, 32, previously admitted pouring petrol over the ground floor of Rowe Court in Reading, Berkshire, and igniting the blaze which killed Richard Burgess, 46, and Neil Morris, 45,  on December 15 last year.

Two residents were also seriously injured – Joel Richards suffered third-degree burns, while Laura Wiggins was left with a punctured lung, a kidney hematoma and fractures to her ribs, right arm and spine.

During his sentencing at Reading Crown Court on Thursday, Kigundu bowed his head so his face was not visible to dozens of residents who were present as prosecutor Alison Morgan described what led to the attack.

She said that for several months before the fire, residents had complained of Kigundu’s anti-social behaviour, which included playing loud music through the night, and his landlord served him an eviction notice in October.

Kigundu, a Ugandan national believed to have entered the UK illegally using his brother’s passport, was told he had to leave Rowe Court by December 14 – the day before the fire.

Ms Morgan said that around the same time, Kigundu also lost his job as a BT fibre optic engineer, and he “experienced fury like never before which he failed to suppress”.

The court heard a voice note recorded by Kigundu on December 9, in which he appeared to state his intention to cause the “death” of his neighbours, some of whom had complained about his antisocial behaviour and who he referred to as “persistent c****”.

Kigundu said in his audio diary: “I want to die with a smile on my face and I shall do so.

“All the actions I am about to take are warranted, believe me.

“They all lead to this for a c*** who’s persistent.

“The only cure for a c*** who’s persistent is death and I am going to give them that.”

Kigundu also purchased a “V for Vendetta mask”, 40 litres of petrol, a sledgehammer, a long-reach lighter and a pair of protective goggles.

Ms Morgan said: “The prosecution’s case is that in the early hours of December 15, 2021, the defendant, Hakeem Kigundu, carried out a premeditated and devastating attack in the way of arson, with the intention of killing and harming as many people as he could.

“This event had been carefully planned by him in the days and weeks before, including sourcing significant amounts of petrol.

“In a message recorded six days before that attack, he also revealed his hatred of those around him and his desire to cause their deaths.”

Former Rowe Court resident and bus driver Joel Richards, who risked his life to rouse two people before jumping from a second-floor window, said he saw Kigundu laughing from his car parked outside as the building burned.

Mr Richards, who suffered burns to his hands, head and face and has been receiving therapy for PTSD, told the court: “On December 15, my life changed forever.

“At 3am, what happened was terrorism, that’s how I’d describe it. I woke to hear my neighbour Paul shouting: ‘This guy has just set the building on fire’.

“He (Kigundu) started laughing, that’s what got me.”

Addressing Kigundu who sat opposite him in the courtroom, he added: “Yeah, you were laughing.”

Mr Richards said he drenched himself with water before fighting through flames to hammer at the door of his neighbours – a man and his pregnant partner, urging them to escape.

Laura Wiggins also jumped from the building, and spent one month in hospital with several broken bones.

In a statement read to the court, she said: “Every minute was hell that I never want to experience again.

“There was a time when I was regretting jumping, thinking I should have died.

“It really was the worst time of my life both physically and mentally.”

Bereaved families had to wait more than seven weeks for the bodies of their loved ones to be retrieved and formally identified due to how badly burned they were and due to the extent of the damage to the building.

Richard Burgess’ mother said she will “never be happy again” after losing her son in such a “horrific” way.

In a statement read to the court, she said: “People ask how I am, and I reply that I’m alright because there’s no point saying anything else.

“But I’m not alright and I never will be. It’s not the natural order of things to lose a child.”

The mother of Neil Morris described him as a “deeply loved son, brother and uncle” with an “incredibly close group of friends”.

“We, his family, were given a life sentence of heartache, sorrow, misery and torture,” she said.

“It was a week away from Christmas and we were looking forward to Neil coming home.”

She said her son had been “happy” after purchasing a flat in Rowe Court just months before the fire.

Kigundu previously pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, two counts of causing grievous bodily harm and one count of arson with intent to endanger life.

His defence lawyer will address Reading Crown Court on Friday.