Jailed arsonist fails to clear his name
A man who was jailed indefinitely for a campaign of arson against members of his family has failed in a bid to clear his name.
Omar Mohammed Suleman (30) of The Fairway, Oadby, could stay in prison for life after losing his appeal against his nine convictions.
Suleman was accused of starting a series of fires at the family home, business premises in the city and houses belonging to other family members.
He consistently denied his guilt, but in October 2010 was convicted of the arson offences and causing a public nuisance by making hoax calls at the city's crown court.
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Sentencing him in 2010, Judge Hammond said: "The defendant appeared to be playing a game with his family, the fire and rescue services and the police."
Last month, his barrister, Michael Birnbaum QC, tried to convince Court of Appeal judges that the jury's guilty verdicts were unsafe.
But after taking time to consider the case, Lord Justice Pitchford, Mr Justice Cooke and Judge William Davis QC dismissed Suleman's appeal.
The court heard there were 26 separate fires caused in and around Leicester, at or near addresses allegedly linked to the defendant, from 2007 to 2009, although he was only prosecuted in relation to incidents in 2009.
One of the fires was started at the family workplace, the Vista Building, in St Matthews Way, Leicester, owned by his father, Mohammed Suleman, and uncle, Hussein Suleman, a former city councillor.
He was also convicted of arson at his uncle's already fire-damaged home, in Stoughton Drive South, Oadby, which gutted the upstairs and made the building unsafe.
Mr Birnbaum said at the appeal hearing that admission of evidence of the earlier incidents was "prejudicial" to Suleman's case and meant the trial was unfair.
However, prosecutors said the evidence was not there as conventional so-called "bad character" evidence, but as evidence establishing a pattern of offending.
Aspects of the earlier fires suggested they had been lit by the same person who started the fires which were the subject of Suleman's trial, they said.
The arsonist probably had keys to the premises and, while no outside person with a motive had been identified, Suleman was the only one within the family with the opportunity to set all of the fires.
Rejecting the appeal, Lord Justice Pitchford said: "In our judgment, evidence of the 2007/08 fires was admissible to establish the pattern and progression of offending upon which the prosecution relied to prove the identity of the fire raiser."