Firefighters and investigators found a jerrycan that appeared to be new, open, and half full, along with two boxes of kindling — one where the fire had been concentrated in the garage. (Facebook/Debbie Beech)

Guilty verdict for man accused of setting fire to his Esquimalt rental property

Wei Li was arrested at airport with burns to face and hands

The man accused of intentionally setting fire to his rental property in Esquimalt in October 2017, has been found guilty.

A 12-person jury delivered their verdict on Friday evening after several hours of deliberation, convicting Wei “George” Li of one count of arson in the Supreme Court of B.C.

Throughout the two week trial, the courts heard how a friendship between Li and his upstairs tenant, Billy Montgomery, turned sour after Li moved to Montreal in April 2017.

Numerous calls from city bylaw officers and police were made to Li, centring around an inspection of the home that showed many defects with electricity and plumbing. Officials gave Li three months to fix the problems — threatening to shut off power to the home.

RELATED: Esquimalt homeowner charged with arson searched how to transport gasoline days before fire

During these calls, a police officer told Li the house may not be covered by insurance if there was a fire because issues surrounding the condition of the home had been raised already. Li told the courts that because of an investment certification he received in Toronto, he had “rich” knowledge about insurance.

Li decided to evict Montgomery and another tenant living downstairs in order to have the defects fixed. The downstairs tenant left without issue but Li testified Montgomery refused. Crown asserted Li did not make efforts to repair the home.

On Sept. 30, 2017, Li arrived back in Victoria for the first time since moving to another province. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, the day of the fire, both Montgomery and Li had a couple of serious conflicts, some becoming physical.

RELATED: Esquimalt arson trial hears of feud with tenant before the fire

Montgomery and two friends, who had spent the night at his residence, left the suite that morning, only to return later to find the garage engulfed in flames.

About 35 minutes later, Li arrived at the Victoria International Airport and was attempting to board a flight. Li was in need of first aid treatment, as he was suffering from burns to the left side of his face and his ears. Li was arrested at the airport and transported to hospital for treatment.

Firefighters and investigators found a jerrycan that appeared to be new, open, and half full, along with boxes of kindling in the debris of the fire.

Detective Jason Eagle, the primary investigator on the case, was first on the witness stand, going through about 30 photos taken during the search of the suite, showing boxes of kindling in the garage, a jerrycan and a key to the suite that was found on Li while he was at the airport.

On the first day of trial, the jury heard the agreed statement of facts that included a lengthy list of web searches from Li’s phone made the day before the fire detailing how to transport gasoline in plastic containers and locations of nearby police and fire departments.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Sidney neighbours host miniature Dinner en Rouge after COVID-19 cancellation

Group came together to celebrate Canada Day safely

Rapid bus system could increase frequency, reliability in Greater Victoria

BC Transit studies methods for improving major routes in Capital Region

It’s showtime: Victoria theatre reopens with new COVID-19 protocols

Capitol 6 theatre and SilverCity Victoria have reopened with limited seating

Victoria Police searching for missing teen

Arianna Mckenzie, 17, last seen July 2

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Most Read