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Dec 29, 2008

Homeless man’s body found in gutted building

Story PictureAnd while many families were celebrating Christmas, a fourth person was murdered. The man’s body was found in a building that was totaled by fire in downtown Belize City. At first the fire originally appeared to be accidental, but there is now reason to suspect that the building was set on fire to conceal the vicious killing of a homeless man. Duane Moody reports from the scene of the crime.

Duane Moody
Shortly before two on the morning of the twenty-sixth, a fire at a two storey wooden building shattered the quiet of the night, waking up neighbours. The building located at the corner of George and King Streets was under the care of Charles Smith and according to neighbour, Cynthia Pitts, she was awakened by the crackling sound of the fire. Pitts says that many homeless persons found shelter in the building.

Cynthia Pitts, Neighbour
“When I heard the crackling of zinc it sounded as if when you are taking zinc from off a roof and I know that there’s this abandoned house where persons have gone in and have taken things. You would hear noises as if they were taking out boards or whatever. So I got up because I could not believe that they were taking off the roof at that hour but when I went to the window, what I saw was flames. The upper flat of the house was in flames. The flames were already in the air. It is a sort of strange fire that you didn’t smell any burning, you didn’t get any clue so that when you looked it was a full blown fire going on. Then because it was the twenty-fifth night, there were not many persons around, the neighbours were all locked up and so it was very eerie because when I ran to get my car I was like the only one on the street apart from the man who lived in the lower flat because there was a person who lived on the lower flat and so he was taking out his clothes. So the two of us were out on the street not saying anything to each other; I was getting my car, he was taking out… absolutely no one on the street; all the neighbours locked up.”

Jasmine Pitts, Neighbour
“I got up and when I looked out the window and I saw the flames. I came on the front porch and I opened the door and the building was engulfed in flames. The fire was already like an inferno. The heat was so intense I could feel it from our porch. It was very hot and they were running around and they were trying to call the Fire Department.”

Duane Moody
“Was there a fear that maybe the fire could have spread across the street because you the streets are small?”

Jasmine Pitts
“If it was windy I think it possibly could have happened. Apparently we were lucky because it was a very still night; it wasn’t windy at all but the flames were still high and we still had fear that it could have actually come across the street.”

Duane Moody
“The fire, did it affect any houses nearby?”

Jasmine Pitts
“There’s a house next door, as you can see, there’s another abandoned home and it began to go over that way.”

Kenneth Mortis, Training Officer, Nat’l Fire Service
“On arrival, we saw flames coming from the upper portion of a two storey building. The cause of the fire, we are at a lost to say. We know that since the building had no electricity, electrical was not a problem. We can only speculate the fire could have been that of an arson.”

Jasmine Pitts
“It is abandoned, there is no electricity, there is no power or anything and apparently homeless people were living upstairs and downstairs in the building. I don’t really know them but I did see one fellow that lived in the downstairs. He came in and he was out taking out his clothes and some of his personal stuff. But the building is abandoned.”

According to reports, two persons were heard arguing in the upper flat just before the fire broke.

Kenneth Mortis
“Our investigation into this fire revealed that again, this building had no electricity. After extinguishing the fire we were informed by the police department some time after seven that what appears to be the remains of a human body was found in the blaze. We returned to the fire scene to confirm such which yes the alleged info was confirmed that it was remains of a human corpse. Now, prior to the fire we were informed that there were two male persons upstairs going through a heated argument. The tenant that was sleeping downstairs was awakened by the noise and he looked up only to see fire coming from the upper flat through the flooring of his building.”

It was hours later that police and members of the fire department returned to the scene and found the dismembered body of sixty-one year old Adilberto Hugh-Donald who lived in the upper flat.

Kenneth Mortis
“The body was found in the remains of the lower portion of the building so we are speculating that after the flooring burnt out then the body and thee rest of the ashes just fell through.”

Duane Moody
“It was completely burnt to dust or…”

Kenneth Mortis
“It was completely burned with pieces of body parts missing here and there but it was confirmed that it was a body.”

Cops are treating the incident as a case of murder and arson. Duane Moody reporting for News Five.

Special thanks to the Pitts family for footage of the fire.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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