Claims of arson in orphanage fire

2010-04-12 00:00

POLICE have refused to confirm or deny a claim that the fire which swept through the Newcastle-based Hope In Christ orphanage in February, claiming 11 lives, was started deliberately.

The fire killed Sarah Holland, who ran the centre, her son Nicholas Pienaar, Pienaar’s 13-year-old twin sons Joshua and Justin, their sister Nicole, and six other people.

In an article in last Friday’s Daily News, Holland’s son, Andrew Pienaar, claimed to have been told by police that a forensic report had revealed the fire started on a couch and that a gas explosion and electrical fault had been ruled out as possible causes.

Pienaar also said his family had long suspected that the fire had been started deliberately and that they wanted the police to find those responsible and to bring them to justice.

But police spokeswoman Brigadier Phindile Radebe would not confirm the claims made by Pienaar.

She said it was standard procedure for a case of arson to be investigated when a building caught fire, and that while investigators believed the fire started near a window in the orphanage, the actual cause of the blaze was still under investigation.

“Let us give the investigation a chance,” Radebe added. “As soon as it is final, we can say what has transpired.”

Makhosazana Mdlalose, the Democratic Alliance spokeswoman for social development, said she was extremely distressed to learn that arson could be the cause of the fire.

“Having personally witnessed the aftermath of this horrific incident, I am appalled that anybody would want to cause so much pain and suffering,” she said.

“We echo the family’s call for justice — the wheel must turn. The DA calls for swift police work so that the perpetrators of this cruel act are brought to book.”

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