The 40-year-old man accused of starting a fire in the basement of St George’s Cathedral was expected to appear before the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, 8 February. The matter was not enrolled and the charges against the man have been dropped, for now, because he was sent for a mental assessment.
ST GEORGE’S CATHEDRAL ‘ARSONIST’ REFERRED FOR ASSESSMENT
The man was arrested on arson charges for his alleged involvement with the fire at St George’s Cathedral in Wale Street, Cape Town on Sunday.
Someone was seen running away from the scene and South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson in the Western Cape, Colonel Andre Traut, said surveillance cameras from a nearby establishment captured footage of the possible suspect.
The man was arrested after allegedly being identified from the footage.
According to reports, the suspect’s lawyer, Shaun Balram told reporters – outside the court – that the charges against his client were withdrawn on the back of a medical assessment by a district surgeon from Somerset Hospital, which said that the man requires assistance with his mental health.
“He will either be sent to Valkenberg or whichever institution that can assist him to receive the necessary help until he can be released back into society,” said the lawyer to TimesLive.
According to News24, the man lives in Atlantis but regularly sleeps on the streets of the City. Balram said his client maintains his innocence and believes he was arrested because he was near St George’s Cathedral at the time of the fire.
Balram said the State is still investigating the matter and may resume court proceedings if sufficient evidence is gathered.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson in the Western Cape, Eric Ntabazalila, confirmed that the matter was not enrolled in court on Tuesday.
Reverend Michael Weeder said the fire broke out at approximately 2:00 on Sunday. The blaze was quickly contained by the local fire department and church caretakers – there was no notable damage but the crypt was filled with smoke.
Weeder was certain the fire was no accident because one of the church’s staff apparently spotted someone running away from the scene.
“The Crypt was dense with smoke. The fire was an act of arson. It appears that a lit piece of cotton/gauze was thrown through the small, barred window near the steps leading up to the cathedral’s Wale Street entrance.
“Someone was spotted running away from the cathedral. The burglar bar had to be broken so that the firefighters could gain access. The Cloister area door also had to be broken open as at one stage the firefighters thought the fire was actually inside the cathedral,” said Weeder.