Arsonists Set Indian Man’s House on Fire in UK, Police Probe Hate Crime Angle

The attack occurred shortly after midnight when the family of four was asleep at their house in Orpington, Kent, in the United Kingdom.


Unidentified arsonists set the house and car of an Indian digital consultant on fire shortly after midnight at Orpington, Kent, in the United Kingdom on Sept. 15 in what police say may be a hate crime. No one was hurt in the attack, but the house and car were damaged, police said.

Mayur Karlekar, 43, who has lived in the United Kingdom for 19 years, was awoken by his neighbors after they noticed the fire.

The local police said a group of four young arsonists was involved in setting the house and car on fire. No arrests have been made so far, the Times of India reported.

Karlekar moved to the United Kingdom from Mumbai in 1999 after receiving a work permit for Tech Mahindra and continued to live in the country, where he has worked at various Indian companies, including TCS and HCL. Shortly after midnight on Sept. 15, he heard a knock on the door and the doorbell, and when he opened the door, he saw his property in flames.

“My neighbor came round half dressed. He was asleep but his dog had smelt the fire and started barking, waking him up. I thought it was just some random people knocking but when I got out of bed I could see huge flames outside the window next to my son’s bedroom. The flames were 15 feet high,” the publication quoted him as saying.

“I don’t feel safe at all and we are worried, if these people are not caught, they will damage other houses and families with kids who may not be as lucky as us to escape,” he said, adding that he now wished to move out of the neighborhood if such occurrences happen again.

Karlekar, a father of two, said that the fire department responded 25 minutes after being called and that the police took the report 32 hours and seven calls later, according to the report. As no person was injured, the incident got “deprioritized,” he added. Arsonists used flammable liquid like petrol to start the fire. “The fire has been caused by petrol or something to create those flames as a matchstick alone would not cause that,” he said.

Speaking to the publication, the local police confirmed that the case is being investigated as a hate crime. A CCTV footage shows four young people lighting up the shrubbery of Karlekar’s property along with the red Toyota car to set them all on fire together. The footage showed they succeeded in their fourth try.

Karlekar said this was “targeted attack.’’ The total loss would be between £15,000 and £20,000, including complete destruction of his two cars, roof, gate, a window, and all the shrubs in his property, he added.

The next morning, a bunch of young people were spotted laughing and taking pictures and videos of the damages which were later believed to be posted on the social media by them.

“We have not caused any trouble to anyone and have only helped others. My wife is a physiotherapist and I was special constable doing voluntary unpaid work. We support multiple UK charities. This act happening to us was a complete shock,” Karlekar was quoted as saying in the report.

Last month, the Edinburgh Police arrested a man after a gurdwara was targeted in a suspected arson attack in Leith city. Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sahib was targeted with a petrol bomb at 5.05 am on Aug. 28. Detectives said the Sikh temple was deliberately targeted, BBC had reported at the time. No one was injured but the building suffered damages. 

In a similar incident that took place on June 6 this year, a gurdwara and a mosque were set ablaze in Leeds, United Kingdom, in the wee hours. The police arrested a 42-year-old man during the investigation, treating them as hate crime incidents. 

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