Woolwich fire: Woman was 'victim of drugs feud'

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FireImage source, PA
Image caption,
The blaze had been started from outside using petrol, prosecutors said

A woman killed in a house fire was the "innocent victim" of a drugs feud while visiting relatives, a court heard.

Memunatu Warne died after her hosts' house was set alight in Centurion Square, Woolwich, south-east London, on 6 September.

The 46-year-old, from Sierra Leone, was hours away from returning home, jurors at the Old Bailey were told.

Six men from south-east London deny murder, arson and two charges of grievous bodily harm with intent.

The attack was allegedly organised by William Smith, 26, and carried out by Kurtis Freeman and Elliott Robinson, both 21.

Matthew John, 20, Kye Kendall, 19, and Martin McArdle, 29 are accused of aiding the attack. Mr Smith and and Mr McArdle also deny perverting the course of justice.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Memunatu Warne did not escape the blaze

Muhammad Kanu, 62, and Umuhawa Kanu, 52, were woken as their home filled with thick black smoke and escaped by jumping through a window, jurors were told.

The fire was deliberately started from outside using petrol, prosecutor Simon Denison QC said.

He told jurors: "Mr Kanu was woken by the sound of Memunatu Warne shouting - she was in a bedroom on the first floor - but they couldn't get to her as the smoke was too thick.

"They had a choice - jump from the second-floor window and in all likelihood suffer serious injury, or die in the fire. Mrs Kanu and then Mr Kanu jumped.

"Both suffered very serious injuries that continue to affect them but they survived. Mrs Warne didn't get out. She died in the fire."

The prosecutor said the fire was started by the pillion passenger of a motorbike in Centurion Square. It was claimed the motorbike was ridden by Mr Freeman and Mr Robinson was the passenger.

Mr Denison said Mrs Warne and her hosts were "completely innocent victims of this murderous attack" and that the likely target was the Kanus' son, Sa'id.

"The overwhelming likelihood is that this attack was related to a dispute between drug dealers, because these defendants were all involved together in dealing in drugs in the south-east London area," he added.

The trial continues.

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