An evil landlord who killed a mum and her teenage son in a horrific house fire before going on the run to America for more than 20 years has been jailed.
Faisal Latif, 44, fled the UK after starting the blaze which killed Marilyn Cook, 40, and son Nicky, 16, on April 9, 1992 following a dispute over unpaid rent.
Nicky died after an explosion gutted the family’s home in Travers Street, Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent, while Marilyn passed away in hospital nine days later.
Her partner Stephen Hillman suffered smoke inhalation and burns in the fire but survived. He died of an unrelated condition in 2006 aged 55.
Fugitive Latif escaped to Pakistan less than 38 hours after the fire and assumed a new identity before eventually settling down in America.
He escaped capture for 21 years until January this year when police used fingerprints and a driving licence photo to trace him to a suburb in Dallas, Texas.
Officers found Latif owned several businesses and had even married, though his new wife had no idea about his past crimes.
In February this year, he was extradited to the UK and appeared in court charged with causing the deaths of Marilyn and Nicky.
On Tuesday he pleaded guilty at Stafford Crown Court to two charges of manslaughter and a third charge of arson with intent to endanger life.
He was sentenced to 15 years for manslaughter and 10 years for arson with intent to endanger life, to run concurrently.
Jailing Latif, Judge Simon Tonking told him: “Having set fire to the house you fled in the hope that you would never be brought to justice.
“Members of Marilyn and Nicholas Cook’s family suffered very gravely as a result of your killing.
“Most grievous is the fact Marilyn’s daughter and brothers saw her in the terrible physical state.
“Marilyn and Nicholas are two people who are still sorely missed by their family who until today have had to endure the emptiness and uncertainty of a case unresolved.”
The court heard Latif, from Manchester, had repeatedly tried to force Marilyn and Stephen out of the house due to rent arrears and allegations of alcoholism.
He changed the lock on the property’s back door days before the deadly blaze and kept the key so he could enter under cover of night and douse it in petrol.
Despite spreading ten litres of fuel around the home, Faisal said he didn’t realise how fierce the inferno would be.
Neighbours were woken by an explosion on the street at 2.30am, and fire engines arrived three minutes later.
When they got into the home crews found Nicky was already dead, while unconscious Marilyn was pulled from the home and rushed to hospital.
She never regained consciousness and died on April 18 – nine days after the fire.
Stephen Hillman recovered from his injuries but died in 2006.
Speaking outside court after the verdict, Marilyn’s daughter Maxine Podmore, 41, gave an emotional statement on behalf of the family.
She said: “No sentence given to this man could ever bring my mum and brother back and to me it will always be murder.
“It is a small piece of comfort knowing that someone has finally been made accountable.
“He deprived me of a mum and brother. All those precious moments we should have shared were taken away from me that night.
“They never saw my wedding or my children, and my children and their children never knew them.
“I suffered mentally and emotionally and still do today. My dad lost a son and the chance of being a grandad.
“No prison sentence can ever bring them back and there’s not a day that goes by when we do not think about them. Let’s hope now that Marilyn and Nicky Cook can rest in peace.”
Chief Inspector Sarah Wainwright, of Staffordshire Police, said:”In 2010 attention shifted to the U.S. and officers came by information that linked a possible suspect to an area of Dallas with the name Faiz Ali.
“Following months of work, Ali was confirmed to be Latif and was identified by his photo driving licence and fingerprints.
“We were then able to go for extradition.
“He may have created a new life with a new identity, living thousands of miles away from the devastation he caused in Middleport, but he is now starting the sentence he deserves.”
Kiernan Cunningham, from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: “In 1990, Faisal Latif purchased 25 Travers Street, and began to rent it out.
“Two years later, his final tenants would be Marilyn Cook, her partner and her 16-year-old son Nicholas.
“Rent arrears accrued and as a result Latif decided to evict them.
“But rather than instigating legal proceedings, he sought to use illegal methods, asking acquaintances for their assistance in evicting them.
“When those acquaintances refused to help, Latif turned to more sinister tactics with tragic consequences.”