A landlord has avoided jail after he breached a series of safety laws that led to the tragic death of two men.  

Muhammad Ashraf was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay £22,684 in costs at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Friday (September 25). 

The 66-year-old had been renting out the five-bedroom house of multiple occupation (HMO) in Woodlands Road, Walthamstow, when a fire ripped through the ground floor, first floor and loft on July 27 2011.  

At the time of the fire, neighbours told the Guardian how they had seen black smoke billowing out of the terraced house and were frantically banging on the front door, assuming the men were asleep. 

Thomas McCann, 60 and Hamza Zulfiqar, 21 were both living in the house when the fire started and despite "strenuous attempts" by Mr Zulfiqar to escape, he was unable to. 

Four fire engines and 20 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze at around 11pm and following an initial inspection, it was found that Mr McCann was in the middle bedroom on the first floor and seemed to be unaware of the fire. 

Ambulance staff desperately tried to revive the men on the pavement but they were both pronounced dead at the scene.

A visit by London Fire Brigade (LFB) safety inspectors the next day found there were no fire detectors or smoke alarms, there was no proper fire risk assessment, no firefighting equipment, no fire-resistance doors and the front door, which had been fitted with a key lock, was the only dedicated fire exit.  

Speaking after the sentencing, LFB assistant commissioner for fire safety, Neil Orbell, said: "It is a tragedy that two people’s lives have been lost as a direct result of fire safety failures and our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr McCann and Mr Zulfiqar.

"Landlords running houses of multiple occupation have a legal duty to keep their tenants safe from fire.

"The defendant has fallen extremely far short of the necessary fire safety standards which sadly contributed to this terrible loss of life.

"We will not hesitate in prosecuting anyone who ignores their fire safety responsibilities and I would like to thank all the officers who worked tirelessly in bring this case to court."

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