Jail for unemployed Hong Kong man who set fire to room occupied by wife and daughter

Man, whose family forgave him, tells court he acted on impulse after some wine

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 10:30am

A 59-year-old unemployed man who set fire to a bedroom in which his wife and daughter were sleeping was jailed six years by the High Court on Thursday.

Lam Kam-loy, who pleaded guilty to two counts of arson with intent to endanger life, told the court he had acted on impulse after drinking some wine.

But Deputy High Court judge Mr Justice Brian Keith stated that the father only had himself to blame.

The court earlier heard that Lam, whose family had forgiven him, had set fire to a bedroom in his flat in Tin Heng public housing estate in Tin Shui Wai on November 27, 2015 after arguing with his wife Kwok Pik-fong.

Lam, who used to be a renovation worker, had been unemployed since 2006 and his relationship with Kwok had turned sour, the court was told. Kwok was considering a divorce as her husband had become an alcoholic and developed a bad temper.

Hours after the couple had a dispute on November 26, 2015, the wife was awakened in the early morning by Lam, who was standing beside her bed and shouting: “You want to move out? Let’s die together.”

Kwok then saw that the wardrobe outside her bedroom was on fire. She immediately told their daughter, who was sleeping in the room, to wake up and leave the place.

The mother struggled with her husband to give their child a chance to escape. She managed to push Lam away and get out of the flat with her daughter.

The 22-year-old daughter later called police and her father was arrested after surrendering himself.

In a recorded video interview conducted by police, Lam said he was drinking alone before the incident and had become agitated. He placed some newspapers and a blanket on the floor outside the bedroom of his daughter and wife, and then took out a bottle of thinner, intending to set fire to the room.

He hesitated for around 40 minutes but eventually poured the thinner on the door of the bedroom and set it alight with a lighter.

The couple and their child all suffered minor injuries and were discharged from hospital on the same day they were admitted.

Lam’s wife and daughter both wrote to the court pleading for mercy. The girl said she forgave her father, adding that she did not believe he had intended to kill her as he did not lock the main door of the flat.

In passing sentence, Keith accepted the father’s argument that his life was in a “crisis”.

But the judge stressed that arson was a serious crime and the sentence was required to reflect the seriousness of the offence.