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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 15:58 GMT
Owner jailed for shop arson attack
Swansea Crown Court
The Chands had said they were victims of racism
A shopkeeper who set fire to her own shop in south west Wales and blamed the damage on a racist attack has been jailed for four years.

Last month, Malkit Chand was found guilty of recklessly starting the blaze - she is set to appeal against the conviction.

Mrs Malkit Chand
Malkit Chand has been found guilty

Mrs Chand, 35, attacked the store she owned with her husband Darshan in Burry Port, near Llanelli, in December 2001.

Police found slogans daubed onto the back of the Hill Top Stores, and a swastika had been painted nearby, the court heard.

At an earlier hearing, Mr Chand, 35, had earlier been cleared of arson charges.

Mrs Chand's solicitor announced she would be launching an immediate appeal.

Family solicitor Peter Lazarus also added that the family is offering a substantial reward of 20,000 to anyone with "fresh evidence which leads to the apprehension of the true perpetrator".

The prosecution had alleged the couple, who now live in Walsall in the West Midlands, had arranged the scene to look like a racist attack to claim the insurance.

Mrs Chand, who had denied the arson charge, was cleared of trying to obtain property by deception.

Judge Morton directed the jury to clear the mother-of-three of this charge because, although she had notified her insurance company of the blaze, she had never formally made a claim.

Judge Christopher Morton also told the jury to clear her husband Darshan, 35, of arson charges.

Mr Chand was cleared after the court was shown CCTV evidence of him at service stations at Cardiff Gate and in Walsall on the day of the fire.

Flames

The prosecution had claimed the couple were in debt and started the fire to claim the insurance pay-out.

Prosecutor Geraint Walters said flames were seen pouring out of the store in Colby Road within 15 minutes of Malkit Chand locking up on New Year's Eve, 2001.

Darshan Chand
Darshan Chand: Cleared by jury

The prosecution alleged Malkit Chand was the only person capable of starting the fire.

The court heard firefighters attending the blaze found a petrol drum with a wick attached and surrounded by children's soft toys.

Firefighters also noted that both the front and back doors of the property were still locked and intact, and that no entrance had been available for anyone to gain entry.

The court was told the couple had taken on the shop more than two years previously.

The jury heard Malkit Chand told detectives that she and her husband had been victims of racists.


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16 Jan 03 | Wales
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