• To see CCTV footage of one of the fires click here.

A 33-year-old has pleaded guilty to killing two people during a spate of arson attacks on Asian businesses.

Robert Torto, unemployed of Paton House, Stockwell Park Road, Stockwell, pleaded guilty to three counts of arson with intent to endanger life and guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at the Old Bailey today.

He also pleaded guilty to a further count of arson at a newsagent in Tulse Hill. Two other counts of arson, including one at a South Norwood store, will lie on file.

Judge Peter Beaumont ordered Torto be detained at Broadmoor Hospital for an indefinite period.

Torto was arrested after the Met's Specialist Crime Directorate launched an investigation into a series of petrol bomb attacks on Asian convenience stores in Lambeth and Croydon in April last year.

In the first attack on April 14 at 1.30pm, Torto threw a petrol bomb into News at Nine, a Tulse Hill newsagent.

A customer was left with serious burns to both his legs and later had to be treated with skin grafts.

Torto also targeted an off licence in Portland Road, South Norwood, four days later. The attack left the owner with severe burns. The shop has remained closed since the attack.

In a later attack on April 27 Torto targeted Price Cutter Food and Wine store in Clapham Road, Kennington.

He was seen setting light to an object and throwing it into the shop.

Two of the four people inside the premises managed to escape by running through the flames - being burnt in the process.

But the two other shop staff, Khizar Hayat and Hamidullah Hamidi, were unable to get out because the rear door was locked. They were rescued by the fire brigade but not before they had received fatal injuries from smoke inhalation.

Mr Hayat was declared dead when he arrived at hospital, while Mr Hamidi died five days later on May 2.

Officers were able to trace Torto using CCTV footage from the different incidents which showed his green Ford Cougar driving away from the incidents.

Once they traced the car officers placed it under surveillance and spotted Torto leaving his home and arrested him.

Detectives also found a handwritten note detailing a number of different bombs and targets including gay clubs, hospitals carrying out sex changes and all none Christian religious institutions.

Detective Chief Inspector David Garwood, who led the investigation, said: "Robert Torto clearly had a mission in mind and that was to attack people from a number of different communities with crude yet dangerous homemade accelerant devices. What remains unclear is his motive. Torto has never explained his reasons and he has never shown any remorse for the tragedies he caused.

"The investigation was conducted under the pressure of knowing that we had a serial arsonist in south London who had already caused the deaths of two men. He had to be stopped and he had to be stopped quickly.

"I am convinced that had Torto remained undetected he would have attacked again which may have resulted in the further loss of life. I can categorically state that the speed with which Torto was apprehended is largely due to the invaluable help provided by CCTV footage."

  • To see CCTV footage of one of the fires click here.