Post-mortem delay blamed as court tells tourist in fire case to wait two more months

CAPE TIMES

by Melanie Gosling

THE court case against Anthony Cooper, the 36-year-old British tourist facing charges in connection with the fire on Table Mountain in January, has been postponed again. Cooper appeared briefly in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday. The case came before the court on February 10, was postponed to March 31 and now has been postponed for another two months. Cooper is to continue to be restricted to the Western Cape under his bail conditions until the case returns to court on May 26. The reason for Friday’s postponement was that the report had not been completed on the post-mortem examination on Janet Chesworth, the 65-year-old British tourist who died of smoke inhalation while hiking on the mountain on the day of the fire in late January. Although it is two months since Chesworth died, police say it is “normal” that post-mortem results take so long because there are staff shortages at state mortuaries. Meanwhile, Cooper is supported financially by his family in the UK. Cooper, quietly spoken and dressed in jeans, sandals and a sweatshirt, was reluctant to make any comment outside the magistrate’s court last week. “I would rather you spoke to my lawyer because I’ve already been slaughtered by the press,” he said. His lawyer, Reaz Khan, said Cooper lived in Brighton in the UK, where he was a salesman, but he kneew little else about his client’s personal life. He said Cooper’s family in the UK were providing him with financial support while he was waiting for the trial to begin. “The state asked for a postponement because the post-mortem report was not complete and also because three or four witness statements have not been completed.” Table Mountain National Park staff have alleged that the fire broke out after a smouldering cigarette butt was tossed from a car window on Tafelberg Road. Staff members claim they saw the incident. A man was arrested soon afterwards. Police have been investigating a possible charge of arson in connection with the fire and another culpable homicide, arising from the death of Chesworth.