Former Ilford Primark worker who started fire in store given suspended sentence

Shutters drawn at Primark after the store in High Road was evacuated back in 2011.

Shutters drawn at Primark after the store in High Road was evacuated back in 2011. - Credit: Archant

A former member of staff at Primark in Ilford was given a suspended sentence after he started a fire in the changing rooms that forced hundreds of customers to be evacuated from the store.

Tayab Ali, 40, had worked at the store in High Road for four years, and on February 12 this year he started a fire in the store that staff members said was the “size of a football.”

Ali, of Russell Road in Walthamstow, said the fire was meant as a “joke” and he didn’t expect it to be as serious as it turned out.

Firefighters were called to the store at around 4pm, however several members of staff had already taken it upon themselves to tackle the fire and secure the area around the changing rooms.

Fortunately there were no customers in the changing rooms at the time, however “hundreds” were forced out of the store while it was dealt with.

At Barkingside Magistrates yesterday (Tuesday, April 16) Ali was sentenced to three months in jail, suspended for 12 months, after previously pleading guilty to committing arson.

The court was told the fire s caused around £500 worth of damage to the shop, but the estimated loss of earnings to Primark, by having to close the shop for the rest of the day is believed to have been £4,000 - £5,000.

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Ali was believed to have suffered from mental health issues and was said to have not had any previous problems with his employer. The fire was “not caused in retaliation to any personal issues with colleagues or his employer”.

His defence counsel Ms Wesolowski said: “This has come out of nowhere.

“He worked at the store for four years, and there were no previous problems.”

Sentencing him, the chief magistrate said: “You have done a very bad thing.

“As this is a shop and as it was a fire and all the people involved must have been very very scared we have to punish you very severely. But we have also got the power to be kind and considerate.

“As long as you behave yourself for the next year you will not go to prison. But if you commit any offences you will soon have to go to prison for three months.

“This is a very serious matter, and we are going to ask you to write an apology to the store and the store managers to show you understand the trauma and the damage you have caused.”