Rowe Court arsonist who burned down Reading flats, killing two neighbours, admits murder

Hakeem Kigundu and the remains of Rowe Court, Reading Credit: Thames Valley Police / PA

A man who burned down more than 20 homes at the block of flats where he lived in Reading, killing two of his neighbours and injuring two others, has admitted murder.

Hakeem Kigundu accepted responsibility over the devastating arson attack in front of a judge at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday 20th September.

The 32-year old pleaded guilty two counts of murder, two counts of grievous bodily harm and one count of arson with intent to endanger life.

On 15 December 2021, Kigundu started a fire at the building where he was a resident.

Significant damage was caused at Rowe Court, Reading Credit: Marc Ward/PA Archive/PA Images

The fire spread, leaving residents trapped and causing significant damage to the housing block.

Kigundu was arrested later the same day, and charged on 17th December last year.

Two of the residents, Richard Burgess, aged 46, and Neil Morris, aged 45, were killed in the blaze.

Two other people were seriously injured as a result of Kigundu’s actions.

46-year old Richard Burgess was one of the men killed Credit: Family tribute

Mr Burgess' family said he was a 'much loved son, step son and brother'.

In a tribute they said: "He was a caring and thoughtful person, kind and not judgemental.  He would often give money to homeless people, begging on the street. He was prepared to go without himself, even though he had very little money to spare."

In a tribute to Mr Morris, his family said,

“Neil was a dearly loved son, brother, brother in law, uncle and friend and has been taken from us too soon and in such a tragic way."

Senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Sally Spencer, of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said:

The burned out flats in Rowe Court in Reading after the blaze on December 15 Credit: Marc Ward/PA

"Kigundu’s actions were devastating. Because he started a fire, Richard Burgess and Neil Morris have lost their lives, two other people have been seriously injured and all the residents have lost their homes and treasured possessions.

"The families of Mr Burgess and Mr Morris in particular have had to endure the unimaginable pain of waiting weeks for the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered from the site, as the building was so badly damaged that it was unsafe to remove them more quickly.

"I want to thank the families of Mr Burgess and Mr Morris, all the residents of Rowe Court who have lost their homes in such tragic circumstances, and the wider community for their cooperation and support during this extremely difficult time.

"I’m pleased that Kigundu has pleaded guilty today, and that the families of Mr Burgess and Mr Morris will at least be spared the trauma of a trial."

Kigundu will be sentenced over a two day hearing due to take place on 6th and 7th October at Reading Crown Court.