A Melbourne court has released confronting CCTV vision of an asylum seeker from Myanmar setting fire to a bank at Springvale, in Melbourne’s south-east, in an “act of retribution” for being kept waiting.
Security vision from inside the Commonwealth Bank branch shows Nur Islam, 22, pouring petrol on the ground between the ATMs inside the front entrance and the middle of the service area.
He then ignites it with a cigarette lighter as customers try to flee.
Islam can be seen running to the back of the bank engulfed in flames.
Islam, who was on a bridging visa, appeared emotionless as the vision was played at the start of his short committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
Prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC told the hearing the fire caused the bank to fill with smoke, creating panic and confusion.
“This created a large wall of flames preventing customers and staff from leaving the bank from the only exit point,” he said.
“In the ensuing pandemonium, there was a stampede to leave the bank, with some people being trapped by a security door and others running through flames and sustaining serious injuries.”
Springvale fire accused ‘angry’ at wait for withdrawal
The court heard 29 people were injured and four seriously injured in the fire which caused about $3 million worth of damage in November last year.
Islam suffered burns to 60 per cent of his body and was in hospital for four and a half months.
He has pleaded not guilty to 108 charges including intentionally causing serious injury, conduct endangering life and criminal damage.
The court was told Islam had earlier gone to the bank on the morning of the fire to withdraw the balance of his account.
Mr Silbert said it appeared he was angry at the length of time he had been kept waiting, and left to buy a container of petrol from a nearby service station.
“He had clearly at this time decided he was going to set fire to the Commonwealth Bank as an act of retribution for his earlier treatment,” he said.
Nur Islam suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries
In a police interview, Islam later admitted to buying the petrol and setting fire to the bank “in order to get back at it”.
Defence barrister Barnaby Johnston told the hearing Islam had suffered the “most serious and catastrophic injuries”.
He said there was insufficient evidence Islam had intended to injure the people inside the bank and the charges of intentionally causing serious injury and intentionally causing injury should be downgraded.
But Magistrate Peter Reardon found there was enough evidence to commit Islam to stand trial on all charges.
He will undergo a mental health assessment in the coming weeks and will face a directions hearing in the County Court on Wednesday.