A HUSBAND and wife who staged a £750,000 insurance scam by having their South Yorkshire corner shop ransacked and burned down have been jailed for a total of eight years.
Mother-of-three Sukhjit Kaur, aged 28, dialled 999 claiming a gang of four thugs carrying knives had held her 33-year-old husband Dharminder Singh hostage together with their young baby.
She said the intruders robbed their grocery store of cash and stock before setting it alight.
But Sheffield Crown Court heard the armed raid and arson were a ‘hare-brained’ plot – hatched after Kaur became heavily in debt to a loan shark who suggested ‘torching the place’ to claim insurance money.
The policy was taken out just hours before two men hired by the loan shark turned up to rob the D&S Supersave, as arranged.
But when the bungling crooks failed to start the blaze, Kaur called them back to make sure they finished the job.
The court heard the corner shop was completely gutted by flames which also spread to neighbour Jean Kaye’s house, who fled when she was woken by an explosion.
Richard Thyne, prosecuting, said Kaur and Singh, of Adlington Road, Parson Cross, Sheffield, never received a penny from the scam and Kaur confessed to the police within hours. He said she made the false 999 call at 3.30am on March 9, 2010.
Police and the fire brigade rushed to the scene to find the shop on Rotherham Road, Smithies, Barnsley, on fire. Mrs Kaye’s semi-detached house had also suffered ‘very considerable smoke damage’.
In a statement, Mrs Kaye said she felt ‘heartache and loss’ and was ‘devastated’ by the incident.
Kaur was heard lying to neighbours when the police arrived, but Mr Thyne said witness Lee Shaw thought her husband seemed to be much quieter and ‘didn’t appear to be very distressed’.
Singh told officers he’d answered the door at 11pm to four thugs who searched the property while the family was forced upstairs. He claimed he and his wife discovered the shop was on fire downstairs when the men left.
But Kaur caved in within hours, when she became upset and revealed the plot while giving a witness statement at Penistone police station. The couple were then arrested.
In interview Kaur said she met up with the loan shark and two other men at around 8.30pm.
Mr Thyne said: “The men left and then returned to take cash and cigarettes, but didn’t set the shop on fire. Consequently she had to telephone the organiser to make sure they finished the job.
“They set a fire in the shop and told her to wait 10 minutes before contacting the police.
“She said after a few minutes she went outside and began screaming about what the masked men had done.”
Mr Thyne said Kaur owed £3,671 to debt collectors and insurance was taken out on March 8 for £185,000, with a business interruption payment of up to £600,000.
Richard Barradell, defending Kaur, said she was in charge of running the ‘failing’ business and she had exhausted all lines of legitimate credit.
Robert Sandford, defending Singh, said he spoke little English and was ‘dependent’ on his wife.
Jailing Kaur for five years, Judge Robert Moore told her: “You destroyed your own home and devastated Mrs Kaye’s life. She could have been burned alive.”
Singh was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after admitting perverting the course of justice. Kaur admitted arson recklessly endangering life.
The court heard that the couple had no previous convictions.
The court heard the men named by Kaur were arrested and interviewed but were never charged because of insufficient evidence.