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Man Reportedly Confessed to Setting Fire that Killed 77 — But Advocates for Victims Questions His Explanation

The man's identity has not been revealed but he could potentially face 77 murder charges

<p>AP Photo/Jerome Delay</p> South Africa fire

AP Photo/Jerome Delay

South Africa fire
  • A man, whose name has not been released, was arrested in connection to an August fire in South Africa that killed 77 people

  • The man reportedly confessed to starting the fire at a public inquiry

  • He allegedly claims he started the fire to get rid of a body of a man he strangled

A man in South Africa was arrested months after authorities say he confessed to starting an August fire in an apartment building in Johannesburg that killed 77 people, according to multiple reports.

The arrest comes after the unidentified man reportedly testified at a public inquiry that he started the fire, authorities said, the Associated Press, The New York Times and South African public broadcaster SABC reported.

According to a report from the Times and the AP, in his testimony, the man allegedly confessed to starting the fire in order to hide the dead body of a man he said he strangled to death after having beaten the victim alongside a drug dealer.

The AP reported that the beating and subsequent killing was ordered by the unnamed drug dealer, according to the suspect’s testimony.

As a result of the surprise confession, the man was arrested on more than 75 counts of murder and 120 counts of attempted murder, the outlets reported, citing a police spokesperson. The Times reported that the spokesperson initially announced that the suspect was facing 76 counts but later amended it to 77.

An advocate for the victims told the Times he was surprised by the confession but also expressed doubt at the man’s story.

“Do I believe him?” advocate Andy Chinnah told the paper. “Nothing’s impossible. But right now it just doesn’t make sense for one body to be set alight and cause such a big fire.”

<p>AP Photo/Jerome Delay</p>

AP Photo/Jerome Delay

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The AP reported that fire occurred in a “hijacked” building, meaning it is rundown and has been taken over by squatters and illegal landlords who take advantage of poor people in need of a place to live, despite that the building was reportedly owned by the city of Johannesburg.

SABC reported that the suspect, who is 29 years old, is expected in court soon.

The South African outlet has reported that the building had poor fire prevention measures and contained many fire hazards like wooden boards and plywood. Additionally, exit routes were blocked off by boxes and wood.

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