An Oldham landlord is one of two to have been jailed after a tenant died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his flat.
Mushtaq Ahmed of Roundthorn Road was sentenced to nine years in prison, and Shafaq Khan, 49, of Gainsborough Drive, Rochdale, was given eight years.
This followed the death of their tenant Joao Afonso in his flat at Wood Street, Middleton.
Ahmed and Khan were both found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter and offences where they had failed to ensure the health, safety, and welfare at work of employees, tenants, and the public.
The property at Wood Street was owned by Ahmed, who bought the building in 2011 and converted the former public house into a ground floor shop with flats above.
Against the advice of Rochdale Borough Council recommendations, Ahmed began letting out five flats above the shop at the end of 2016. Joao Afonso was a tenant of Ahmed.
Khan owned the shop below the flats, known as Diamond Mini Market.
On September 14, 2017, 58-year-old Joao Afonso died in his flat due to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a petrol generator installed against health and safety regulations in a storeroom within the shop premises directly beneath Joao’s flat.
The court heard that the flats did not have a legitimate electricity supply. Instead, a direct to the mains connection had been installed.
Ahmed, as the landlord, charged his tenants for electricity that was essentially being obtained for free. On September 13, 2017, this illegal activity was detected when an electrician was sent out after the company became suspicious.
The electrician immediately disconnected the electricity supply to the premises. The set up was so dangerous with exposed live areas and scorched wires; it presented a fire and electrocution hazard.
The electrician contacted Khan with details about the steps he would need to take to have the electricity supply switched back on. However, Khan disregarded this advice and instead made enquiries about installing a petrol generator as a quicker and cheaper alternative to source the shop’s power.
After Khan contacted a local hire shop stating he needed a generator to power his lights and fridges in the shop, he lied and went against the hire shops warning that the generator could only be used to power lights.
He and Ahmed proceeded to hire a generator, and on returning to the premises, both positioned the generator inside the shop on Wood Street.
Ahmed then rigged up a double-ended plug from the generator so that the electricity could be back-fed into the buildings supply, a dangerous manoeuvre as it makes the plug and all the terminals within the building live on top of the existing hazards reported by the electrician.
The court was presented with evidence that after a customer warned both the defendants of the dangers of using a generator indoors, the pair moved the petrol generator from the shop into a poorly ventilated storeroom at the rear of the building directly underneath Joao Afonso’s flat. The generator was shut inside the storeroom behind a fire door.
Neither Khan nor Ahmed conducted any form of risk assessment or research into the dangers of using a petrol generator indoors, despite this information being available on a website Khan used to make his initial inquiries.
Khan’s defence claimed that he did not have the knowledge or skills to search the internet and research the dangers of using a petrol generator.
On September 13, 2017, Joao returned to his flat after having dinner with his sister and her family. The next day, after failing to contact Joao via phone, a friend went to his apartment, where he sadly found Joao deceased.
Emergency services attended, and Joao was pronounced dead at the scene. A Home Office post-mortem established that the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.
The exhaust fumes from the petrol generator had contained carbon monoxide. These fumes had nowhere to go in the unventilated storeroom and had permeated through the ceiling into Joao’s flat, which was directly above. The carbon monoxide had built up to a level that proved fatal.
After Joao’s death, both defendants paid £5,000 to have the electricity supply legitimately reconnected in the building.
However, a visit to Wood Street by an electrical supply company in May 2018 found further dangerous electrical meter activity. They again found a petrol generator in the same storeroom underneath Joao Afonso’s flat when he died. This too posed a risk to staff working in the shop and customers.
Thankfully, no one was living in the apartments at the time. However, the electricity supply was switched off again.
Detective Constable Dan Daly of GMP’s Organised Crime Unit said: “All of our thoughts today are with the family and friends of Joao, who was an industrious man and had desperately missed his children whilst he was in the UK working towards a better life for them all.
“The fact that Ahmed and Khan paid for the electricity supply to be legitimately reconnected to the building days after Joao’s death demonstrates their greed and desire to find the cheapest solution rather than the safety of their tenants, employees and the public. Had they have paid this debt instead of getting a generator, Joao Afonso’s death would have been prevented.”
Mr William Masih one of the directors of the British Landlords Association said: “This is one of the worse cases of flagrant wanton disregard for a tenant’s Health & Safety I have heard of.” He said.
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