Court hears Betty's Bay 'fire starter' intimidated witnesses

23 January 2019 - 19:12 By Aron Hyman
The charred remains of a car after a fire raged through Betty's Bay earlier this month.
The charred remains of a car after a fire raged through Betty's Bay earlier this month.
Image: Esa Alexander

The man accused of setting fire to the Overberg with a signal flare on New Year's Eve allegedly threatened the lives of state witnesses.

That's according to statements made by police investigators in the Caledon Magistrate's Court during the bail application of Sheldon "Bassie" April on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old has a history with the Overstrand authorities and was well-known by the police in Kleinmond who presented at least five previous convictions for the court to consider during his bid to be released on bail.

These included cases of domestic violence, assault, contempt of court and drug-related cases.

April claimed that he was a fisherman and held quotas for crayfishing, but it was established in court on Wednesday that his sister was the holder of the fishing permits. 

It is alleged that he set light to dry vegetation on the mountains above the coastal village after firing a signal flare just minutes into the new year. 

The fire destroyed about 30 homes and damaged 30 more, leaving one person in a medically-induced coma with burn wounds. The blaze took more than two weeks to extinguish.

Fanned by strong winds, flames raced along the Hottentots-Holland mountain range forcing authorities to close the scenic R44 coastal route and evacuate several suburbs. 

The costs incurred by wildlife authorities, homeowners, and firefighters will be added up by the state when April is expected to make his final submissions for bail on Friday.

Cape Nature's estimated operational costs of R4.5m have already been submitted to the court by the state, which is opposing the granting of bail. 

The City of Cape Town, Working on Fire, Overstrand Municipality and other authorities are yet to provide an estimate on costs incurred due to the inferno.


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