The manager of a troubled Haymarket apartment building has raised concerns about overcrowding in the complex after a man allegedly doused his partner with flammable liquid and set her alight.
The 34-year-old female victim is in a serious but stable condition at Concord Hospital after sustaining burns to her head and upper body.
The incident is believed to have occurred in a common area on level six of the Regis Towers complex on Castleraegh Street in Sydney's CBD, where the woman is understood to have been living as a subtenant in an apartment in the building.
Neighbours found the woman screaming for her life and covered in flames in the sixth floor lobby. One resident smothered the flames with a gym towel before security guards and emergency services rushed to the scene.
Another neighbour said she opened her apartment door to see the woman's face completely "shocked and red", while another said he saw the alleged attacker sitting in the lobby looking "emotional" before he fled the scene.
Shortly after the incident, emergency service crews found a 28-year-old man in Ultimo with burns to his arms. He is currently in police custody at Royal North Shore Hospital.
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The woman is an Australian resident of Thai background. Consulate staff are currently attempting to contact the victim's relatives overseas.
Regis Towers building manager Alex Pappas raised safety concerns about overcrowding in the apartment complex months ago and claimed Friday's tragedy was related to tensions which arise when people live in cramped conditions.
Mr Pappas said about 30 per cent of the complex's 650 apartments housed more than the permitted maximum number of tenants. Fairfax Media understands that some two-bedroom apartments are housing up to 12 people.
According to Mr Pappas, the victim was sharing an apartment with a ''large number'' of other tenants.
The Regis Towers owners corporation cracked down on overcrowding and other activities such as drug dealing and prostitution last year by introducing a strict policy on electronic access cards, which left some tenants locked out of their apartments.
However, Mr Pappas said tenants were simply lodging complaints with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) which would then issue orders to reactivate the access cards.
''NCAT says our policy is in line with legislation but individual tenants can go to NCAT and complain they have been unfairly locked out of their premises and NCAT can order us to let them back in,'' he said.
''It's forced a situation where we have to be lax in letting people back into the building when we know they are living in dangerously over-crowded apartments.''
Detective Superintendent Mark Walton labelled the act as "vile", revealing the couple had a history of abuse in their relationship.
"I personally struggle to think of a worse act one person can perform on another,” he said, pointing out the incident was especially poignant considering Saturday is International Women's Day.
"Sadly, dealing with domestic violence occupies more police time than any other crime type. It's a terrible blight on our community."
Authorities are questioning the 28-year-old male on suspicion of attempted murder. While refusing to label the act as pre-meditated, the superintendent said "some level of intent appears to have occurred prior to the attack".
Police arrested the man on Wattle Street in Ultimo after he visited a private residence seeking treatment for burns injuries to his hands and face.
Meanwhile, police say it is vital domestic abuse victims report their situation to police, before it is too late.
"I appeal to victims of domestic violence to have confidence in us, the police, that we will make it stop… but it is vital that it is reported to us so we can make a difference," Superintendent Walton said.
Police are urging anyone with information about the incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: www1.police.nsw.gov.au.
The story Woman set alight during horrific attack in Sydney CBD, man arrested first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.