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Cops probe arson after fire at court

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Although the exact cause of the fire remains unknown, police spokesperson Brigadier Mohale Ramatseba confirmed that a case of arson has been opened by the police.

THE FIRST floor of the De Aar Magistrate’s Court has been extensively damaged by a fire that broke out on Wednesday evening.

The security manager, John Adams, was notified at around 10pm and by the time he arrived on the scene the fire brigade, police and throngs of onlookers had gathered.

Although the exact cause of the fire remains unknown, police spokesperson Brigadier Mohale Ramatseba confirmed that a case of arson has been opened by the police, but he could however “not disclose any further information as investigations are still on-going”.

The Department of Justice said that it had contacted the Department of Public Works, the custodian of the building, to assess whether the building was safe for the public.

“They are on their way,” the department said yesterday.

It was also confirmed that a communique had been dispatched to Correctional Services informing the department that cases would not be heard until the exact extent of the damage had been assessed.

Though reluctant to say much, court manager Ettienne Fredericks stated that no dockets or other sensitive material was kept on court premises.

According to him, the burnt section of the building housed the court library, several unused offices and one court room which the high court occasionally used for special sittings.

By yesterday morning, firemen were still attempting to completely extinguish the blaze, although it was under control.

A thin cloud of smoke still hovered in the air and the windows of the first floor were completely shattered.

Cellphone images from an official, who wanted to remain anonymous, show the severity of the damage inside. The floors have been reduced to rubble, the roof has partially collapsed and it’s charred beams are strewn all over the stairs.