Accused murderer cleared after he explains his wife accidentally set herself on fire

A husband accused of killing his partner by setting her alight was cleared of murder after he claimed she accidentally set herself on fire as she cooked him porridge.

Kaltoun Saleh, 43, spent six weeks in a specialist burns unit following the blaze at Noll House on the Andover Estate, in Finsbury Park, north London, on July 5 last year.

Her husband Abdi Quule, 48, was found at the scene of the fire and treated for burns.

Ms Saleh died of her injuries on August 21 and Quule, was charged with her murder.

The prosecution alleged the cabbie killed Ms Saleh after she confronted him about his other wife in Somalia.

But Quule was cleared of murder by an Old Bailey jury after claiming his wife had been wearing a long Somalian robe and was cooking porridge when the fire started.

Jacob Hallam, QC, prosecuting, had told the court that on the night of the blaze, two separate neighbours heard loud arguing voices, then five loud bangs.

They then heard screaming and a female voice shouting for water at around 2:45am.

Mr Hallam said: ‘They were arguing for some time and at some intensity a few minutes before she was burning.’

Samples of white spirit were found on a pair of the defendant’s discarded jeans, the court heard.

‘Members of the emergency services notice that strong smell of accelerant,’ Mr Hallam added.

‘They noticed in the house and on Kaltoun, suspecting it had been poured down her front.’

Jurors heard how Quule told police that he arrived home and his wife was cooking porridge.

‘He said she had been decorating and she had been wearing a long Somalian dress,’ Mr Hallam said.

‘She was cooking porridge in the kitchen when she called for help that she was on fire.

‘He described the fire as starting at her feet.

‘He described how he tried to help her, which is how he burned himself.’

‘The defendant denies arguing with his wife, and said this simple did not happen.’

Giving evidence Quule explained his wife had been using white spirit to clean her paint brushes that day and had also been lighting incense sticks.

Quule said: ‘I did not even know about white spirit was when the police explained it to me.

‘Then I realised she used it to clean the house – the floor and her brushes.

Mr Quule claimed he had never touched the white spirit before but his wife used it to clean the kitchen floor.

‘As it was in the kitchen, that must have been how it got onto my trousers.’

‘I fell onto my her,’ he said.

‘This was when the excess of the burning had gone down, and my wife was on the floor.

Asked why he fell on her, he replied: ‘It was my wife, I was kissing her. I was grieving because of what was happening.

‘She was shouting turn it off, turn it off.

‘My wife was very heavy. She was a very big lady,’ he added.

Mr Hallam asked him: ‘What were you arguing about?’

He replied: ‘I did not argue and I did not pour spirit on her.

‘I did not have a reason to put spirit on her and I would not have even known what effect the spirit would have.

Mr Hallam said: ‘But you did know how people in your community would cover themselves in liquid and set themselves on fire?

He replied: ‘Yes but they would use petrol and gas, not spirit.’

Quule, of Noll House, Corker Walk, Finsbury Park, north London, denied murder and was cleared by the jury of eight men and four women after an eight day trial.

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