WISBECH: Former Lithuanian policeman was unintentionally killed, inquest rules

SPECIAL REPORT By TOM JACKSON A FORMER Lithuanian policeman was unintentionally killed when a fire bomb engulfed his van he slept in to protect it from thieves, an inquest ruled yesterday (Thursday). Dainius Kigas was afraid his new Renault van would be s



A FORMER Lithuanian policeman was unintentionally killed when a fire bomb engulfed his van he slept in to protect it from thieves, an inquest ruled yesterday (Thursday).

Dainius Kigas was afraid his new Renault van would be stolen on a work visit to Wisbech last year, a short time after his mother-in-law's husband's car was stolen from the same place.

He died when his van was set alight in Turnpike Close, Wisbech, in the early hours of June 3 2006 while he slept inside.

However, a coroner could not back claims made by the inspector investigating the incident, that whoever set fire to the van knew Mr Kigas was inside.

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Recording a verdict of unlawful killing through involuntary manslaughter, coroner David Osborne said: "I am satisfied that a person intentionally conducted an unlawful and dangerous act, namely setting fire to the vehicle.

"Quite clearly that was an intentional act and quite clearly it was an act which any sober and reasonable person would recognise is likely to risk some physical and certainly serious harm to any occupant of the vehicle."

The inquest at Wisbech Courthouse heard from Det Insp Jim Bambridge that a forensic examination of Mr Kigas' vehicle found:

• The quarterlight at the front of the minibus had been deliberately broken by a lump of concrete found near the vehicle, and

• That a bottle of Coca Cola filled with petrol was then put through a broken window and had been set alight, probably using a cigarette lighter found inside the vehicle.

Mr Osborne said: "On further questioning by myself, Det Insp Bambridge stated that he was sure, from his investigation, that whoever set fire to the vehicle either knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, that it was occupied at the time they set fire to it."

However, Mr Osborne said he "could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt" that whoever set fire to the vehicle intended to kill Mr Kigas.

The inquest heard from Velma Kigiene, Mr Kigas' widow, that Mr Kigas did not smoke and did not possess a cigarette lighter.

It also heard that a pathology report found Mr Kigas died from inhalation of products from combustion. Toxicology tests for both alcohol and drugs were also negative, but results for carbon monoxide and cyanide were consistent with Mr Kigas dying as a result of combustion fumes.

Earlier, the inquest heard from Mr Kigas' mother-in-law Luida Drewell who said Mr Kigas, 30, who worked between England and Lithuania as a courier, may have slept in the car after learning of the theft of her husband Brian's car from the same street.

A tearful Mrs Drewell said through an interpreter: "Brian's car was stolen and after that he was afraid.

"I met him when I was coming back from work on June 2 and he had some sausages, so told him I would put them in my fridge. He was quite upset and anxiously gave me the sausages and after that he came in for a short while.

"Later that night I asked him to come in and have something to eat but he was in a hurry and didn't come in. He was very anxious.

"But there have been problems here for a while. Every night at about 2am I look outside and see what the youths are doing outside. We even have them asking us for cigarettes or money."

Mrs Drewell's granddaughter Ernesta Tamoseviliute, who also lived in Turnpike Court, added that Mr Kigas seemed "tired and agitated" when he visited.

"He didn't speak to me," she said. "He looked like he was in deep thought."

Ms Tamoseviliute was woken by a disturbance outside in the early hours and looked outside to see Mr Kigas' minibus on fire and ran outside.

She added: "We were not allowed to go close to the vehicle because the fire service told us the van was on fire. We asked where Dainius was but we were told he was not there."

Mrs Kigiene told the inquest that Mr Kigas brought a new van for his business a few weeks earlier.

Mr Kigas transported people and parcels to the UK and the business was registered in Lithuania. Mr Kigas left Lithuania on June 1 to bring some Lithuanian workers to Wisbech.

Mrs Kigiene said: "We just exchanged text messages on his trip and said he would telephone me when he arrived here. I didn't suspect anything would happen until he didn't call me. He never mentioned anything being wrong in his texts; they were all about the business."

When asked by coroner David Osborne whether it was normal for Mr Kigas to sleep outside in his vehicle, Mrs Kigiene said: "I didn't ever see anything suspicious or sinister about it. It was quite a warm time of the year because my mother's accommodation is quite small.

"The vehicle was new and the seats were comfortable. Furthermore, some of his passengers used to leave some belongings in the van and therefore he was responsible. For security reasons, he used to sleep in the van because he thought it would be more secure that way."

Mrs Kigiene also said she was unaware of anyone who would want to cause harm to her husband, adding: "I think he had some enemies from a previous occupation."

The inquest also heard from Jamie Davey who, alongside his girlfriend Stephanie Hanlon and friend Christopher Rix, called the fire service when walking home from a night out at the now-demolished Jack's Nightclub.

Mr Davey said: "We were walking past and Stephanie said there was a van on fire. It looked like there were flames on one of the seats on the left hand side of the van.

"We stood on a traffic island about 25 metres away until the emergency services got there. We didn't get close."

Richard Stebbing was one of the retained fire-fighters in Wisbech who was called to tackle the fire at about 2.50am. He said, on arrival, they found all the doors secure, a front left-hand side quarter light smashed and a small fire inside.

After the fire was extinguished, Mr Kigas' body was found face-down on a passenger seat, with the lower half of his body in a footwell. He could not identify the gender of the body at the time, but said there were cuts and grazes to knuckles on both hands.

When asked by coroner David Osborne whether it seemed Mr Kigas made attempts to escape, Mr Stebbing said: "Yes. That was not a normal sleeping position. The interior of the vehicle was heavily smoke damaged but it only around the driver's side and lessened towards the passenger side with little or no damage behind.

"The front windscreen was damaged, but as if it was hit from inside.