More than 14 000 hectares from Betty’s Bay to Hermanus have been razed to the ground, along with 43 houses, in a fire that started on New Year’s Eve.
The man alleged to have started the fire, 34-year-old Shelton April, is facing a number of charges to do with his involvement in the fire starting, and has a prior conviction for housebreaking, amongst other things.
Now Heinrich Adonis, a volunteer firefighter “who risked his life trying to extinguish the Betty’s Bay New Year’s Eve fire and then helped cops bring the suspected arsonist to book”, says he is being threatened by April and his family.
“I’ve been told that the suspect is saying that he’s going kill anyone who told the cops that he started the fire,” says landscaper Heinrich Adonis, 30, from Betty’s Bay’s Mooiuitsig suburb where he grew up.
Adonis [below], who watched in horror as a flare fired from a few houses down torched the mountainside above his home minutes into 2019, said after Shelton April’s arrest by Kleinmond police, his uncle threatened him with assault.
“He used ugly words. He told me he’s going to kick me in my ma se p**s.”
But Adonis is undeterred. “I don’t give a sh*t. I’m not scared of him or anyone else in his family. What is wrong is wrong and what is right is right. That’s the way I was raised. I don’t see how a wrong can be right. This is why this country is in such a mess with all this corruption. People don’t want to stand up and do the right thing.”
Adonis was the first person on the scene when the fire broke out on New Year’s Eve, after he saw a flare shoot into the sky from in front of the suspect’s house “like a space rocket”.
He threw on his volunteer firefighter gear and charged up the mountain, spending 10 minutes fighting the blaze before other volunteers arrived.
That delay, and the reaction from other members of his community, has angered him.
In the quote from Adonis below, Shelton is incorrectly called ‘Sheldon’:
“I risked my life but everyone just stood and watched. Sheldon should’ve at least helped me. We could have done more if he and others had.”
On top of that, “the suspect’s family wanted to keep who started the fire a secret. That’s why the cops had to offer a reward. No one would come forward. And when the cops arrived to arrest Sheldon, they hid him.”
Doing his civic duty – something which had been drummed into him by his father, a municipality plumber for 27 years – Adonis made a statement to police, pointing out where the flares were fired from and their origin.
“Around Christmas time I saw Sheldon with a flare. He was bragging about it with a few of us standing at the back of my neighbour’s house. It was red and a bit longer and fatter than a litre Coke. He wouldn’t say where he got it from or what he was going to do with it.”
The case against Shelton has been postponed to later this month for a formal bail application.
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