Finsbury Park man cleared of wife’s murder

The Andover Estate in Finsbury Park has been identified by Islington Council as having chronic damp

The Andover Estate in Finsbury Park has been identified by Islington Council as having chronic damp issues. PIcture: David Holt/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 - Credit: Archant

A Finsbury Park father accused of killing his wife by setting her on fire was today cleared at the Old Bailey.

Abdi Quule has been found not guilty of murdering his wife Kaltoun Saleh, who died seven weeks after catching fire in the kitchen of their Andover Estate home on July 5.

Mr Quule, who had six children with Ms Saleh, said he was in the living room watching televising while his wife cooked him porridge and pottered about in the kitchen, where she was cleaning with white spirit and lit incense, on the night of the incident. He told police she then started “shouting she was on fire.”

Giving evidence during the 10-day trial, he told the court: “Kaltoun never shouted. She never banged on anything – she’s not that sort of person. When she’s upset she would not fight. She would not raise a fist. She’s like an angel.”

A half empty bottle of homebase white spirit was later recovered from the kitchen, which the prosecution accused Mr Quule of pouring on his wife before setting her on fire.

But asked how traces of this highly flammable substance made onto his jeans, the defendant told the court: “She used it to clean the floor. [...]

“I was in the kitchen, that’s how it went on my trousers and this is when I was trying to save my wife and that was the way it came into contact with my body. [...]

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“I actually fell on more than one occasion in the kitchen and maybe she fell on me, I don’t know. She was very heavy. She was a very big lady.”

He added: “That is my wife – I was kissing her. We were grieving because of what was happening. Protect your wife, this is the first instinct. [...]

“We did not argue and I did not put spirit on her,” said Quule. “I did not have reason for me to chuck on that spirit, and I didn’t even know the effect that spirit would cause.”

The prosecution had alleged Mr Quule killed his wife after they argued about his polygamous second marriage to a woman in Somalia. But, while Quule admitted this second marriage had been a mistake, he said he was always open about it with Ms Saleh and had divorced the other woman after she asked him to.

Quule’s second cousin Hibo Loor, who is helping care for the couple’s children, told the court she visited Ms Saleh at Broomfield Hospital, a specialist burns facility in Essex, four times.

“She voluntarily said to me in Somali: ‘Abdi is innocent or not responsible,’” Ms Loor told the court.

Mr Hallam asked why she had not mentioned this to police at the time. She said she had just been happy to see Ms Saleh on the mend and expected police to interview her of their own accord.

The court also heard three character references in favour of Quule, which said he’s “always ready to help, especially with the disabled and elderly”, had “always shown dedication towards his community”, and was in a “loving relationship” with Ms Saleh.