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.

Just Posted

School strike: SD63 says grade 12 students ‘will not lose their graduation year’

Parents, students concerned about educational impact of CUPE 441 strike

Population growth on West Shore strains wait lists for family services

Funding not keeping pace with demand at Pacific Family Services Association

Cineplex to show free holiday movies to support Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada

Community Day will be on Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m at select theatres

West Shore RCMP arrest man accused in Port Renfrew theft, Duncan fraud

Man charged after $300 in fraudulent charges, two phones and wallet stolen

Monster Truck Chaos comes to Victoria, tickets on sale Friday

Monster Truck Chaos rumbles into Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre Jan. 25 and 26

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Birthday boy: Pettersson nets 2 as Canucks beat Predators

Vancouver ends four-game winless skid with 5-3 victory over Nashville

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

B.C.’s high gasoline prices still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

Most Read