Suspect charged after deadly fire at New Zealand hostel: ‘More serious charges are not ruled out’ | Abroad
New Zealand police have arrested a suspect in connection with the deadly fire that broke out at a hostel in Wellington on Tuesday afternoon, which left at least five people dead. The man is charged with arson, but police say other charges could follow.
The 48-year-old appeared in New Zealand court for the first time today. The man’s name has not yet been released to prevent his right to a fair trial from being violated. He was taken into custody after his lawyer denied a bail request.
“Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the fire,” a spokesperson added Thursday. “Additionally, police are not ruling out other, more serious allegations related to the deaths,” Detective Inspector Dion Bennett said in a statement after the man was arrested.
Rampage in court
Court documents show the man is accused of setting fire to a sofa in the ‘Loafers Lodge’ hostel on Monday night which broke out in the deadly blaze. Then he would have started another fire on Tuesday morning. The second count carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
During the first short hearing earlier today, the man walked a lot and waved his hand. In an outburst, he said he didn’t set the fire and wanted to fire his lawyer.
Uncertainty about the dead and missing
The number of dead and missing remains unclear. Police said earlier this week it was difficult to list those present and contact those missing. Some residents of the hostel – which offered short and long-term accommodation – left their phones behind as they fled the blaze, while others refused to speak to authorities.
Inspector Bennet said officers have found five bodies so far. Investigators could not yet enter the third and fourth floors because they were “still too dangerous”. So far, the number of missing people is “less than ten”, according to the inspector.
Four of the charred bodies have already been removed from the inn, Bennet reported. The identification of the victims is still in progress. None of the dead or missing has been officially named.
LOOK. Deadly hostel fire in New Zealand
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