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)

Jury out for deliberation in Esquimalt arson case

Deliberation follows a two-week trial

The jury is out for deliberation in the trial of Wei Li, who’s been accused of intentionally or recklessly setting his Esquimalt rental property on fire in October 2017.

Li purchased the home in 2016, taking possession in October and living there until April of 2017. During earlier testimony, Li described the purchase as a ‘bad decision’ because of evidence in the garage of a previous tenant processing drugs in the space.

While Li lived in the Uganda Avenue home, he rented the upstairs suite to Billy Montgomery and his partner, Tracey. The three became good friends, testified Li, taking trips to Tofino and Nanaimo together, along with bonding over a love of sushi.

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

Several weeks after Li moved to Montreal, in April 2017, the friendship with Montgomery began to deteriorate, especially in June and July of that year.

From the time Li moved out, to Sept. 30, 2017 he did not visit the Esquimalt home but received numerous calls from police officers and city bylaw officers. The calls centred around an inspection of the house that showed 19 defects with the electricity and officials gave Li three months to fix the problems – threatening to shut the power off 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. The Crown asserts Li did not make efforts to repair the home.

On Sept. 30, 2017 Li arrived back in Victoria. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, the day of the fire, both Montgomery and Li had a couple of ‘serious conflicts,’ some becoming physical.

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 nearby police and fire departments.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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