Mountain fire case reports still outstanding

Argus

by Bubelani Phillip

THE POLICE have been severely criticised for their slow investigation of the case of the British tourist alleged to have caused a disastrous Table Mountain fire by flicking a cigarette butt out of his car window. Another British tourist died as a result of the fire. Anthony Cooper, 36, appeared before magistrate Herman van der Merwe at the Cape Town Magistrate Court yesterday on charges of arson and culpable homicide. This was Cooper’s third appearance. A Table Mountain National Parks trail guis has said he saw Cooper flick a smouldering cigarette butt from his car window on Tafelberg Road. He radioed Cooper’s car registration number to another guide further down the road. The guide stopped Cooper and he was arrested by park rangers. Reaz Khan, Cooper’s attorney, yesteday described the state’s slow investigation as “unnecessary” before he lashed out at their inability to get statements from witnesses in January as “gross negligence”. The courst was set to have received a post mortem report on the death of Janet Chesworth, 67, the tourist who died as a result of smoke inhalation during the fire. The report is outstanding. Khan insisted that the report had already been compiled in February but it had not made its way to court. Another report, on the extent of damages caused by the fire, is yet to be submitted to court. Sate prosecutor, Juanita Swart, said they were prepared to enter into a plea bargain agreement with the accused but Khan turned this down saying he “can’t even discuss that” with Cooper as he did not have all the relevant reports”.