Three jailed for taxi firm fire plot that ended in death

THREE relatives have been jailed after a plot to set fire to their failing Sheffield taxi firm went wrong – and the blaze caused an explosion that left a man dead.

Timothy Darby, aged 37, who was recruited to torch to Advance Taxis in Abbeydale Road in an insurance job, was blown down the stairs and fatally injured.

The plot was orchestrated by Mohammed Hafiz, aged 32, his brother Ilyas Khan, 23, and their cousin Irfan Khan, 29.

The brothers, of Machon Bank, Nether Edge, and Khan of Montrose Road, Carter Knowle, were jailed for four-and-a-half years each after pleading guilty last month to conspiracy to commit arson.

Judge Robert Moore said: “Conspiring to destroy a failing business by an arson in order to make a claim on the insurance is so serious that only immediate sentences of custody can be justified.

“Your instructions must have been to do the job properly and leave no trace that could be brought back to the family.”

Hafiz was once a council Labour party candidate and Ilyas Khan was vice chairman of Nether Edge Labour Party. Irfan Khan was hoping to become a barrister.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the business had debts of more than £100,000 by autumn 2009. In the weeks before the fire the family took out a £70,000 insurance policy to cover the taxi office and disruption to the business.

On Bonfire Night 2009 Darby, of Langsett Road, Hillsborough, doused the office in petrol and set it alight, then was seen on his hands and knees, engulfed in flames.

A statement from his family said: “We are bitterly disappointed about what he did. He was reckless and his actions and those of the men who have pleaded guilty placed people’s lives at risk.

“We will have to live with the knowledge of what Tim did and will always remember the horrendous and painful way in which he died.”

Mohammed Sarab Khan, 20, of Machon Bank, and the family’s business partner Abid Ali Khan, aged 35, of Abbeyfield Road, have admitted their parts in the plot and are due to be sentenced today (Thursday).