A man accused of attempted murder and arson told his wife ‘this is my revenge’ after a fire which devastated a nail bar in Hailsham, a jury has heard.
Duc Bac Vuong said the words to his wife, who is known as Naomi, after the blaze which seriously injured the couple and their five-month-old baby in Hollywood Nails on March 4, 2015.
During his trial at Hove Crown Court last week, the jury heard how footage recorded on a police body-worn camera captured the couple talking in their native Vietnamese.
The exchange was translated and revealed Naomi saying, “Will God forgive you for what you have done?”
Mr Vuong is then said to have replied, “You stabbed me many times before, this is my revenge.”
Later in the conversation, Naomi says, “Have you sobered? Will you dare to look at me? You can kill me but how can you kill our baby?”
On Friday (January 8) the court heard transcripts of Mr Vuong’s interviews with police after he was arrested on July 7, 2015, while he recovered from his injuries at the Queen Victoria Hospital, in East Grinstead.
Mr Vuong tells police that the nail bar business, on the High Street, was struggling due to increased competition in the area. However, he insisted his relationship with his wife was ‘normal’.
On March 4, 2015, Mr Vuong said he woke up feeling ‘fresh, happy and cheerful’. He told police how, during the day, his wife worked in the salon while he cared for their son.
At around 4pm, when their son was sleeping, Mr Vuong said he went to a nearby shop to buy a small bottle of vodka, which he then drank in the couple’s kitchen.
After this, he went upstairs to do some paperwork but felt ‘tired and dizzy’, so went to lie down in the guest bedroom.
The next thing Mr Vuong claims to remember is hearing his wife shouting ‘fire, fire’.
He ran down the stairs to get a fire extinguisher. Mr Vuong claims there was initially no flames on the ground floor, but said some could have spread from a jumper he was wearing, which caught fire as he ran through the flames upstairs.
Mr Vuong told police he rang 999 while putting out the flames and once they were all out, told his wife to bring their son downstairs to the salon, where they waited for emergency services to arrive.
However, some of Mr Vuong’s statements were inconsistent with the results of investigations carried out by the fire service, which found two main ‘seats’ of fire - one upstairs and one downstairs.
The investigation determined the fire was started with a naked flame and two accelerants - acetone and isotropic alcohol. There were also two cigarette lighters found on the floor downstairs.
Mr Vuong said it was possible he knocked over some of the chemicals while running downstairs to get the fire extinguisher.
During the interview, police told Mr Vuong a number of witnesses had reported seeing him and his wife arguing on March 4. Two witnesses came into the salon during the day, only to be turned away by the couple.
Mr Vuong claimed he and his wife were frustrated because their son was ill and not eating properly, and that when the customers came in, he turned them away because they didn’t have a booking and because both he and his wife were trying to feed their son.
Police also asked Mr Vuong about a number of smashed bottles in the kitchen. He said his wife had smashed them because she was annoyed he had been drinking vodka.
CCTV footage from Hollywood Nails was shown to Mr Vuong during the police interview and to the court during the trial. The clip shows a clear liquid being thrown across the floor of the salon, before a bright flash as it goes up in flames. A minute later, Mr Vuong is seen on camera putting out the flames with the fire extinguisher.
The footage shows Naomi bringing her son into the salon and banging on the window to get the attention of passers-by. She opens the salon door, only for Mr Vuong to close the door and lock it again. He claims this was because he did not want strangers coming into the property and stealing his money before the emergency services arrived.
The CCTV clip also shows Naomi pushing Mr Vuong away from her and her son while sat on the floor of the salon after the fire.
Mr Vuong told police he asked his wife to give him their son while she opened the door, but she refused because both parents ‘wanted to protect’ their son.
Footage then shows Mr Vuong going back into the property. Witnesses told the police Naomi had been concerned for her husband because he was going to ‘hang or harm himself’.
Mr Vuong said he had gone into the property to gather some personal possessions and did not know why his wife thought he was going to harm himself.
Mr Vuong told police, “I do not know who started the fire but I put it out.”
The trial continues.
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