Arsonist found hanging in shed

Firefighters on scene of an arson at 152 Columbia Ave., London Ont., on Sunday, December 1,...

Firefighters on scene of an arson at 152 Columbia Ave., London Ont., on Sunday, December 1, 2013.DEREK RUTTAN/QMI Agency

Kelly Pedro, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- The man was determined to kill his ex-wife.

He started fires early Sunday at the side and back doors of a London home. After the woman's six relatives escaped, he turned his car and drove at two of them.

London police found the man hanging from an unfinished shed in a backyard two blocks away.

Police laid out the shocking details of the weekend arson, crash and the circumstances of the suspect's death Monday in a case police called a "threat to public safety" that could have ended in six deaths.

Emergency crews were called to a house near Cherryhill Village Mall after it was lit on fire about 5:30 a.m. Sunday.

Police have determined the woman's ex-husband intended to kill her in the attack, though she wasn't home at the time.

"We believe the female was the primary target of attack, however, she wasn't home at the time and several family members were," Det. Insp. Kevin Heslop said Monday.

"Despite that he was presumably targeting her, we have to look at what the end result might have been if the house had caught fire and people died.

"There were six people in there, so it's quite conceivable that there could have been six deaths there. There's no question there was a threat to public safety during this incident."

Investigators aren't releasing the man's name or age and are still trying to locate his family in another country, but they did confirm he lived in London.

The man lived at the Columbia Ave. home until 2009.

Heslop said police were called to the house that year for a domestic violence situation, but there haven't been any charges since then.

What triggered the early Sunday attack is part of the investigation, he said.

Six people related to the man's ex-wife -- between 26 and 68 years old -- were in the house when the man doused it with a flammable liquid and lit it on fire.

He was interrupted by a relative who spotted the fire and alerted the others, allowing them to escape without serious injury, police said. One person was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

The man then fled in a car.

As the relatives fled the burning house -- police believe through the front door -- the man turned the car around and drove at two of them, launching the car into a snowbank.

With the vehicle marooned in a snowbank, the man ran away. A police dog found his body hanging from a shed in a backyard about two blocks away.

Inside the man's car, police found "incendiary devices" and accelerants that Heslop said were in a number of bottles with liquid in them. Police don't know what the liquid is, but are sending it away for testing.

Officers also found spent fireworks at the scene.

"There was certainly a degree of planning involved here, no question . . .," Heslop said.

Police were able to track part of what happened using images from a private security system in the area.

An autopsy began Monday, but won't be complete until the coroner determines whether the man had any drugs or alcohol in his system.

kelly.pedro@sunmedia.ca

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