General — 02 September 2014 — by Albert J. Ciego
Gungulung fire  was arson?

BELIZE CITY–Sonia Harris, 50, a Belizean-American who is presently on a visit back to Belize, became hysterical and almost fainted when, at about 12:45 this afternoon, she went to her home on Holy Emmanuel Street, in the Gungulung area of the city, and found it engulfed in flames.

Harris beat the side of the fire engine and shouted out that her nephew had burnt her house after threatening to do so, because she put his girlfriend out of the house so that her brother could move in. Police have detained her nephew, pending an investigation.

The angry homeowner, who was crying, said that her nephew set the house on fire after he had been threatening to do so, because she stopped him from selling drugs in her house and on her property.

Harris vowed that if she gets her hands on him, she will decapitate him, and she calls on the police to find him before she does. She said that it was all about drugs. She had stopped him from using her house as a drug house, and he became angry, she claims. She said she then told him that his girlfriend would have to leave the house, and that was when he became more angry and said that he was going to burn the house down while she and her family were sleeping.

Harris said that she was at home with him this morning and she left to go to the police to report his threats, and shortly after, she was told that her house was on fire.

Between sobs, Sonia Harris told the media that last week she told her brother he could stay in the house because it was a three-bedroom house and they could all live in it. Since then, she said, her nephew had been threatening her that Anthony, her brother, would not live to enjoy the house.

She reminded him, she said, that she was the owner of the house. The house was her legacy from her son, who, through sweat and toil, built the house for her. She was not driving her nephew away, but she had given permission to her brother to live in the house, she stated.

Harris said that yesterday, her brother moved in and her nephew’s girlfriend moved out, but before moving out of the house, the girl took some items from house, including curtains that were hung up on the windows and covering that was on the chairs. She also took sheets, blankets and other household items, Harris said.

Harris told us that she allowed her nephew to live in the house for two years without paying rent, and that her nephew would want everybody to believe that the house belonged to him, but the house was built by her son, now deceased, and it is her means of remembering him, and it has sentimental value to her.

What is even more upsetting to her is that her American Green Card and passport were destroyed in the fire, making it very difficult for her to return to the US at the end of her vacation next week.

Harris said that replacing her Green Card will cost her about $5,000 USD, money which she must now find.

However, she vowed to return to the States, where she will work hard to generate funds to rebuild a house on her property.

Ben Matura, Operations Officer of the Belize Fire Service, said that on their arrival at the scene of the fire, they saw three structures in the yard. The house in the rear of the yard, a 40 x 30 wood and plycem structure about 4 or 5 feet off the ground, was engulfed in flames. They quickly extinguished the fire, leaving the other two homes intact.

After extinguishing the fire they began their investigation, which revealed that the fire started in the northeast section of the house, in one of the bedrooms, on top of a mattress which was set aflame via clothing, which was spread all over the room.

Matura told Amandala that he would not use the term arson, but it was an “incendiary fire”, which was in an area where it should not have been.

A resident in the area said that he was at home when a neighbor came and told him that Harris’ house was burning. He quickly ran out of his house, and went to Harris’s house and kicked in the door.

Two dogs that were in the house were rescued, but he could not have done anything more because the house was engulfed in flames.

Police said that the house and its contents were totally destroyed, and the total value of the damages has not yet been ascertained. The house was not insured.

Police have since detained one man in connection with the fire.

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