Jury in arson case hears of accused’s burn injuries

The Crown has closed its case against a man accused of setting fire to his rental property and destroying his tenant’s property two years ago.

Wei Li, also known as George Li, is charged with one count of arson in connection with a fire that broke out just after 10 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2017, in a duplex he owned at 318 Uganda Ave. in Esquimalt.

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The jury has heard that Li and Billy Joe Montgomery, the tenant in his upstairs suite, had a difficult relationship. On the morning of Oct. 3, Li , 48, arrived at his rental property and went into the downstairs suite, where his tenant had moved out two days earlier.

Montgomery started yelling at Li through the floor and the walls. Then Montgomery left the house with a friend. When they returned, the house was on fire and surrounded by police and firefighters. Most of Montgomery’s property was destroyed.

The jury has heard that Li arrived at the Victoria International Airport, planning to board a flight to Ottawa. As he passed through security, a screener noticed that Li appeared to be in distress.

He was treated by airport personnel, then arrested by police and taken to Victoria General Hospital in an ambulance.

On Tuesday, Victoria police Det. Isabel Ohman testified that she went to the hospital to take photographs of Li’s wounds. The forensic identification officer showed the jury photographs of Li’s left hand, which was wrapped in bandages. His right hand was bandaged at the wrist.

The jury looked at photographs of the right side of Li’s face and ear area. Li had blisters on the front and top of his right ear. There were a number of blisters on his neck area and blisters on the top of his left ear.

The detective seized Li’s clothes, a duffle bag and a backpack at the hospital.

On Oct. 5, Ohman was part of a team that went into the Uganda Avenue duplex with a search warrant. Police found a red gas can in the basement suite.

“It’s fairly new, it still has the label on the front and it’s still bright red and in fairly good condition,” said Ohman, holding up the gas can for the jury to see.

Ohman confirmed that it smelled of gas.

Police also found a box and an orange bag full of kindling, she said.

Admissions of fact read into the court record revealed that on Oct. 2, 2017, Li searched the internet on his phone for information on the safe transport of gasoline in a plastic container and for information on police and fire services in the township of Esquimalt.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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