When Bergen (VG) Lakshmi Singh (40) looked into the eyes of the man who could cost her family her life, she only felt sorry for him.
At 03.30 on Friday 13 January, a man runs from the home of the Singh family in Lattefjord, Bergen.
A bag and tin wool remain.
Mahindra Singh (43), the father of the family, woke up soon. The alarm goes off all over the house.
Inside the house, her children, aged one, seven and 10, sleep. So are his partners, mum (65) and dad (71). Seven people in total.
According to the indictment against the arsonist, many of the occupants of the home could have easily died had the fire not been discovered in time.
Mahindra turns off the alarm. He feels the panic building. He tries to control his nerves.
On the roof he sees smoke.
– I ran around the house to see where it was burning, he tells VG today.
Mahindra walks through all the rooms to sound the alarm. One by one raises the family.
This is serious. He gathers everyone in the living room.
Mahinda and the family did not realize that the house was on fire outside. And the fire burns.
VG meets Mahindra Singh (43) and his sister Lakshmi Singh (40) inside the family home until that fateful evening.
The house is now uninhabitable. Tarpaulins provide protection from weather and wind. And Mahindra’s children play on the floor with ash, coal and roof tiles.
– When I opened the door I saw flames on the right. I ran inside and got the fire extinguisher. I was able to suppress it, but found it burning behind the cladding, says Mahindra.
On the same day of the fire, Lakshmi was about to leave Oslo for Bergen. She never made it home, but was caught in a fire.
They are boasting that no one was injured and there was no loss of life.
– Imagine if something happened to the children, my parents or my brother, says Lakshmi.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the family felt a sense of uncertainty—they didn’t feel safe.
Will someone hurt them? Why did someone set their house on fire?
A neighbor’s surveillance camera showed a man walking into their house with a bag before running away.
The family is well-known among Bergen residents and runs one of the city’s oldest Indian restaurants.
– We were so down, we were afraid there was someone who didn’t want us here anymore. Will someone hurt us? Is someone looking for us, what should we do? Mahindra says.
Nine months after the fire, they are sitting face-to-face with the arsonist in Hortaland District Court.
– I see that a person killed the whole family and tried to set fire to our house, says Lakshmi.
The man is seriously mentally ill. He is currently being monitored by the health system.
– explained that he was the one who did it. And Ellen Mjos, defending the man, says he is very sorry and regrets it.
The judge believed the evidence showed the arsonist did not receive adequate health care.
– I feel sorry for him. His life must be ruined. Someone has to take responsibility here. Lakshmi tells Viji that she should have got help sooner.
The Defender of Man fully admits the latter.
– Undoubtedly. He should be open, she tells Viji.
In court, the defendant explained that before he set the house on fire, he received information from demons that tortured him.
According to the testimony, the man suffered from delusions for many years.
Now the Singh family lives at a new address in Bergen. The house will be rebuilt within the next year. But going back to the same place where they had a traumatic experience is not easy.
– We are a very close family. We do many things with each other, we live together, we work together, we have a house together, we have everything in common. All of us were thrown into a very desperate situation – and shocked by the incident, says Lakshmi.
Prosecutor Sigurd Asnes Granli in the trial against the house arsonist says the defendant is considered insane, VG says.
– There is a risk of recidivism, for social security, a sentence of compulsory psychiatric care is necessary.
The man was sentenced by the court to transfer to compulsory mental health care. He was released from paying compensation to the insurance company.
An earlier photograph in the case does not show defender Ellen Ikeseth Mjos, but her colleague. Image has been changed. Error corrected on 31/10/2023 at 12:13.
“Music geek. Coffee lover. Devoted food scholar. Web buff. Passionate internet guru.”