Dubai: Twenty one years ago a drunken man burnt to death nine people. He was soon arrested and charged with premeditated murder. Paul George was found guilty and put on death row.
George is the longest serving prisoner in Dubai Central Jail. The incident took place in October 1985 when, George, who was then 39, caused a fire to break out in shanty houses in Fareej Al Marar off the Naif road in Deira while drunk.
The fire burnt to death nine Pakistanis - two mothers and their seven children aged between two and 14 within a few minutes. Another woman and a child suffered severe burns.
The carpenter, now 60, came to Dubai in 1979 to work in his brother's furniture shop leaving his ten-year-old daughter and his three-year-old son at home. George, who was known as the arson killer, describes what happened 21 years ago as an accident.
"I was heavily drunk, unconscious and unaware of what I was doing when I committed the crime," he said in a hesitant voice.
However, many residents still recall the shocking crime. George said on the night of the incident he went to a nightclub at a hotel in Nasser Square, where he got drunk - as he used to every weekend.
"I then went back to my shop to do some work but some children came and disturbed me. I chased them and slapped one of them on the face," he said.
He said the father of the boy he slapped came along with other neighbours, humiliated him and warned him not to get even close to their house.
"That depressed me, so I drank more alcohol until I collapsed and lost all senses and set fire to the garbage behind the shanties," he said.
One of the women who had been injured in the blaze told police I was responsible for the crime and that she had seen me commit it. I was arrested the next day, George said.
"My family was in India when I was sentenced to death. I did not see my daughter until 2000 when she got married. She now lives in Ajman and I have a granddaughter," George said.
He said it was only last year he was able to meet his 24-year-old son who came to work in Dubai.
His day in prison starts at 6am, when he has his breakfast. He spends his time playing dice with some other inmates. Other times, he spends the day watching movies or TV.
George claims he was pardoned by the victims' families in 1996, but he said that did not help him get out of jail.
"My government is not helping me. They always say they are working to get me out, but nothing has been done yet. My son is in contact with the Indian Consulate."
George hopes he can go back to his country to spend the rest of his life with his wife after 21 years behind bars.