Monday, December 03, 2012

BREAKING: Montserrat courthouse fire -- arson suspected

About half an hour ago, someone I saw in a store indicated that she was not doing well when I greeted her. 

I thought, maybe she has an ill child and inquired further. 

To my shock, she reported that she had not been able to go to her office at Government headquarters here, due to a suspicious fire, perhaps due to a fire bombing.
A picture of one of the two temporary court buildings in
Brades, showing the missing window panes and
fire blackening (Cr: ZJB report)

I dropped everything, went to the post office and got my mail, then took a walk around, noticing police crime scene lines and officers guarding and trying to collect evidence. 

Both court rooms (High and Magistrates) seem to have been burned, in both cases there was a window with missing panes, and from what could be seen through the windows around the buildings there has been a fair amount of internal fire damage.

Site view, from a clipped annotated Google Map
Rumours spoke of fires at 3 am this morning, where of course the main police headquarters and prison are scarcely 100 m away. 

This is a sad day in Montserrat.

Already, Jamaica Observer has a report up, here. Let me clip the brief note:
The Montserrat Magistrate Court and High Court appear to have been firebombed early this morning (December 3).
The Royal Montserrat Police Service, assisted by the Fire and Rescue Service, are investigating two separate fire scenes, which are suspected as arson.
According to reports the Montserrat police discovered the fires while on routine patrol early Monday morning and responded immediately by alerting the Fire Department.
A release from the Montserrat government [cf here] said, "It appears that an accelerant was thrown into each building."
Moderate damage occurred which has resulted in the closing of the Magistrate Court for Monday’s session, report says. The High Court is also adjourned. Logistical preparations are underway to have the Magistrate Court reconvene at an alternative location for this week.
This is indeed a sad day. END

U/D overnight: The Montserrat Reporter provides additional details and some historical context. First, this is not the first time such an incident has happened, as "[t]he last time a fire was reported at a court house in Plymouth several decades ago in June, 1972, and like now, arson was suspected." Second, some details: "the Police reported that person or persons unknown up to this time through broken windows, appear to have thrown some kind of accelerant which resulted in fire inside the buildings . . . . [T]here is ‘moderate’ damage inside both quarters. As government headquarters workers arrived early to the cordoned off scenes, they were told they would be unable to work as electricity to offices had to be checked and restored."