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‘The smell of petrol was overwhelming’

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Daniel Dipheko is accused of setting his wife and four children alight after he suspected his wife of cheating on him.

Daniel Dipheko appeared in the Galeshewe Magistrates Court yesterday.

THE NORTHERN Cape High Court heard yesterday that the smell of petrol was overwhelming inside the home of the Galeshewe man who is accused of setting his family alight.

Daniel Dipheko is accused of setting his wife and four children alight after he suspected his wife of cheating on him. He is facing six charges, including two charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and one charge of arson.

The murder charges relate to the death of his wife, Abigail Mogadile, who died in the Robert Sobukwe Hospital following the incident, and the death of the couple’s 18-year-old son, Tshepo Mogadile, who succumbed to his burn injuries on December 15, 2018, two days after the incident.

The three other minor children survived but were treated for burn wounds.

Dipheko was arrested a day after the incident after he apparently fled the scene. He pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

Sergeant Lionel van Ade, from the K-9 Fire Detection Unit, told the court yesterday that there was a strong smell of petrol lingering inside the burnt house when he went to investigate the scene.

Van Ade said that the first thing he noticed was the front door of the house lying close to the gate.

“The door had signs that it had been forcefully opened as the locking device was still on the outside. I noticed wood charring on the door when I turned it around. The wood charring was an indication that the door got intense heat. I however noticed that the bottom of the door was not burnt like the top part, which created the suspicion that something was protecting or prohibiting the door from burning at the bottom,” said Van Ade.

He said that he first investigated the scene from the outside and walked around the house to look for further evidence. “I saw that the window of the lounge was open and there was a ventilation pattern on the outside of the wall which indicated that it was caused by the intense heat and smoke that came out of the window.”

He said that he found some blood on the bathroom window. “At that stage the bathroom window was open and not damaged. The only damage was slight smoke damage on the window but it was still intact. I saw blood patterns and what appeared to be human skin on the window frame as well as on the bricks.”

Van Ade added that one of the young victims had later told him that the blood belonged to her. “A young child came and spoke to me in the presence of her older sister. She told me and confirmed that the blood found by the bathroom window belonged to them.”

Van Ade said that his suspicion that something had been barricading the front door was confirmed when he went to investigate the inside of the scene.

“I went inside the house and the smell of petrol was overwhelming. I did not make use of my dog to investigate the smell as it was very obvious. I saw that the wall of the lounge was burnt. There were couches packed on top of each other which were burnt at the bottom. Not far from the couches was a mattress which was also burnt, revealing the springs. There was another couch which was partially burnt. One could then see that the couches had been packed in front of the door, which was the reason that the bottom part of the door did not burn.”.

He went on to say that he had found that the back door was also barricaded. “There were couches as well as a green basin barricading the back door.”

Van Ade said that the bathroom had also suffered a lot of smoke damage. “The bathtub was full of water. The room however did not burn but there was smoke damage to the walls and tiles.”

He said that the bed inside one of the bedrooms was partially burnt.

Van Ade told the court that it appeared as if the fire was started at various points inside the house.

“When we investigated where the fire had started, it appeared that it had started at different places. The fire in the living room was started at the couches that were packed on top of each other. Then there was a fire in the bedroom at the mattress, but it appeared that it might have been extinguished or had died due to lack of oxygen. It appeared that the fire did not start at one point and spread throughout the house.”

Van Ade stated further that a green bottle which apparently had petrol inside it was later found at the scene.

“We poured the substance from the green two-litre bottle into a smaller container and sealed it. That container was put inside a forensic bag and sent to Pretoria,” he said.

The trial continues.