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Home fire leads to arrest of maid

AN ayi was arrested yesterday for allegedly setting a fire to burn down her employers' home and steal their property.

Deng Lanmeng, a Gansu Province native, told prosecutors she set the fire to take revenge on her employers for buying a personal accident insurance policy for her. The poorly educated domestic helper thought she would be in danger and the employers would get the compensation if they bought the policy.

Deng, 43, was charged with arson and larceny by the Minhang District Prosecutors' Office.

The suspect was hired by a couple surnamed Lu, who returned to Shanghai from the United Kingdom in October. Deng had a single room in their home and earned a salary of 2,300 yuan (US$336) a month.

On January 19, the couple received a call from the property management company saying heavy smoke was coming out of their apartment. Lu called Deng immediately to ask whether she was cooking. Deng replied that she was out shopping, but that she would return at once.

When the couple got home 30 minutes later, firefighters were putting out the blaze. Deng wasn't there and couldn't be contacted.

Firemen concluded the fire was lit intentionally.

Surveillance video

The couple entered the apartment and found much of their furniture had been burnt. They also saw an empty alcohol bottle and a burnt lighter in Deng's room, Lu told prosecutors.

The fire caused property damage of nearly 10,000 yuan. Two laptops, a small digital TV set, an expensive suitcase and a few gold and silver ornaments were missing.

The surveillance video tape provided by the property management company showed Deng left with the suitcase and another bag that afternoon.

Lu said his domestic helper must have set the fire but he couldn't figure out why. He said he had given her 3,500 yuan three days before the incident because she asked for an advance to celebrate the coming Spring Festival.

Deng was caught two weeks later in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province. The missing valuables were seized at the scene.

The domestic helper admitted she was guilty to prosecutors.

Her employers suggested buying insurance for her, saying the insurance firm would pay compensation if she had a work-related accident, prosecutors said.

But Deng refused because she thought accidents would take place if she had the insurance, according to prosecutors.

The couple still bought the policy, angering Deng, who allegedly sought revenge by setting the fire.


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