AN elderly man decided to burn himself to death and take his wife of 30 years with him, the District Court heard yesterday. The 72-year-old attempted to set fire to his estranged wife, trapping her between a locked grille and a wall of flame, prosecutor Guy Holland said. Ng Chau yesterday pleaded not guilty to arson with intent to endanger life. On November 3 last year, Fong Sum-oi, 56, stopped by her husband's North Point flat to drop off laundry for their son. The relationship between the couple had deteriorated, and they had lived apart since 1991. The moment Ms Fong stepped inside, Ng locked the grille behind her, trapping her in the flat, the court heard. He went to the kitchen, where he allegedly lit the stove and pried open the valve of a spare gas tank. When she saw smoke pouring from the tank, Ms Fong shouted at her husband to stop, but he ignored her plea, the court heard. She fled towards the door, only to find her way blocked by the locked grille, Mr Holland said. Ng was said to have chased the fleeing woman, throwing flaming newspapers at her. He was also said to have thrown a kerosene bottle into the corridor of the flat, followed by rags and paper drenched in thinner. The barrier of fire blocked Ms Fong's retreat. Screaming with terror, the housewife tried to shield herself behind a folding table and a stool beside the gate. Neighbour Cheng Wai-ming heard the woman's screams, the court was told. After dialling 999, Mr Cheng unsuccessfully tried to break open his neighbour's grille with a hammer. When the fire brigade arrived, the blaze was extinguished and the woman was freed. The elderly couple were taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation. Ms Fong was also suffering from a burn on her arm. They were released from hospital a day later. The kitchen was completely burned down. The trial continues before Judge Hawkes.