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Man in court for fatal shack fire

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Jackson is facing two counts of premeditated murder, attempted murder and arson

Tshepo Jackson

THE KAGISHO man accused of starting the shack fire in which his 21-year-old wife, Mpho Jackson, died, stated during his bail application yesterday that someone was trying to pin the incident on him.

Tshepo Jackson, 29, applied for bail in the Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court yesterday, where the matter was postponed to Friday.

Mpho was inside the shanty with the couple’s 18-month-old son and her cousin’s four-year-old son, Jayden Scheepers, at the time of incident on August 25 this year.

Mpho died on the day of the incident and Scheepers died in Kimberley Hospital a week later. The 18-month-old boy sustained burn injuries to his leg, hands and forehead.

Jackson is facing two counts of premeditated murder, attempted murder and arson.

The State prosecutor, advocate Tevene van Wyk, indicated that a decision would be made later by the court on whether the offence should be overturned from a schedule 5 to a schedule 6 offence.

Jackson’s lawyer, advocate Marcus Mafaro, said that the accused intended pleading not guilty to the charges against him.

Mafaro read a statement into the record which formed the basis of the accused’s defence in which he denied the charges against him.

“I intend to plead not guilty to the charges against me. The State’s case is weak as a person has implicated me in order to direct attention away from himself. I have told the police that I was at home sleeping at the time of the offence. I will deny any involvement in the matter,” Jackson’s statement read.

Mafaro, during the testimony of the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Jacobus Smith, indicated that the State had no concrete evidence linking the accused to the scene of the crime.

According to Smith, he found a witness at the scene who informed him that the sand smelt like paraffin.

“I went to the scene at 2am and found a witness who had sand in his hand. The witness told me that the sand smelt like paraffin,” said Smith. During cross-examination, Smith admitted that he at first did not smell the paraffin in the sand but only later that afternoon when he again returned to the scene.

“Later that afternoon, at about 4.14pm, I received a call that the woman in the fire had died. I went back to the scene and again found the same witness at the scene who gave me a plastic bag with sand in it. I could smell the paraffin in the sand.

“I then decided to contact a dog handler who is trained in fire investigations. The report from the dog handler was that the dog had reacted positively to suspected paraffin. According to the report, it is suspected that the fire started at the door where the dog had reacted to the paraffin smell.”

Smith said that the statement from the mother of the deceased pointed to the accused as the person who committed the crime.

“The mother of the deceased was with her in hospital before she died. The deceased told her mother that the accused had sent her WhatsApp messages before the incident occurred. The deceased said she also received a telephone call from the accused where he said that if he could not have her then nobody could.

“The WhatsApp messages indicated that the accused wanted sex from the deceased. From the reported call, it indicated that the accused wanted to go to the house of the deceased but she had refused to give him permission.”

Smith said that a statement from another witness indicated that the accused was seen in the same street as the shanty moments before the incident.

“According to the witness, he saw the accused earlier that night. The witness was with two other people. The accused apparently asked the witness what car had dropped the deceased off at home.”

Smith said that this statement was supported by another witness who said he saw the accused later that night.

“The witness and the accused did not talk to each other. The witness went into the premises where the fire occurred. The witness is staying inside a shanty located next to the one of the deceased. The witness said he went inside his shanty and about 15 minutes later heard a woman screaming and saw the flames from the shanty next door.”

Smith stated that he is opposing bail for the accused on the basis that the witnesses are known to him.

He added that the safety of the accused is also a concern as the family of the deceased is still very emotional about the incident.

Mafaro, however, argued that no paraffin was found on the accused and that nobody could place him directly at the scene of the crime.

“There is no direct evidence linking the accused to the incident. No forensics had been done on the clothes he was wearing or on his cellphone. All evidence against the accused is circumstantial,” said Mafaro.

The matter continues on Friday.