Thomas White barricaded the front door with a heavy chest of drawers to frustrate any rescue attempts, disabled the smoke alarm, removed the door handle and then left by climbing 80ft down a rope from the balcony of the third floor flat.
In the days between Ashley Gillard’s death and the discovery of the body, 26 year old White had behaved rationally, and replied to messages the dead man had been getting on his mobile phone making it appear he was still alive.
He also stole cars, a fork lift truck, and other property, and was seen on cctv visiting other friends, going to service stations, and even buying the the petrol he needed to start the blaze.
On Monday White pleaded guilty at Luton Crown Court to the manslaughter of 31 year old hairdresser Ashley Gillard at a flat in Wolverton, Bucks last June. He will be sentenced later.
Thomas White was originally charged with murder, but the prosecution have accepted the guilty plea to manslaughter by gross negligence and will not proceed with the murder charge.
White, from Bibury Close, Wellingborough, has also pleaded guilty to ten other charges including arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.
Mr. Gillard, was found dead in his flat at Trevithick Court, Wolverton, near Milton Keynes in the early hours of June 9 last year. He had probably died on the night of Friday June 5.
Graham Smith, prosecuting said: “The pathologist was unable to identify a definitive cause of death. He could rule out shooting, stabbing or blunt force trauma, and could confirm the man was dead before the fire was started.”
He said the two men had had a row that evening.
Mr. Smith said: “The defendant was furious and got into a rage.
“He was later to tell his brother that he knew his friend needed medical attention but he did not help him, and put a duvet over him to shut him up. He said at that moment he hated him and wished him gone,” said the prosecution.
After starting the fire, by pouring petrol on curtains and cushions, he went to his mother’s home and confessed to his brother and later repeated his account to his mother and then his father, who lived nearby.
He said he wanted to pack a case and leave the country but his brother had alerted police who arrested him at the house.
Mr. Smith said: “This is a very very serious gross negligence case. He could have acted to get help and he did not. He knew the man was vulnerable and at the time he wished him gone.”
White entered his guilty pleas before a packed court room on what would have been the first day of his trial.
In addition to manslaughter and arson he has also pleaded guilty to stealing clothing and credit cards from Mr. Gillard and another man, fraud by using one of the cards at Tesco, arson of a Peugeot car belonging to Mt. Gillard, theft of a generator, and taking a pick up truck and a BMW without consent, and two charges of possession of Class B and Class C drugs.
After the prosceution outlined their case, Judge Richard Foster said he needed an assessment from a probation officer on the danger White may present. He said his behaviour after the manslaughter was ‘rather bizarre’.
He adjourned the case for about three weeks.