Accused of burning down the home of his ex-wife just over two weeks ago, a serial arsonist struck again shortly before midnight on Friday and set fire to the Bath Settlement, Berbice home of the woman’s parents.
Seeta Persaud, 42, and her partner Nawaz Chaseem were asleep at her parent’s home at Bath Settlement when her ex-husband set fire to the home at about 11.40 pm on Friday. The kitchen was destroyed but they managed to douse the flames before it engulfed the home. The man is also accused of burning down Persaud’s Bath Experiment Scheme, West Coast Berbice home on May 28 and, before that, in 2009. He is being sought by the police for the May 28 fire and is also wanted for threatening Persaud and her family, and for intruding on their premises.
Persaud related to Stabroek News that she and Chaseem were asleep in the lower flat of the home when she awoke suddenly and saw the “big fire” by the front door. She recounted that she started to scream and quickly opened the back door to escape. By then Chaseem had gotten up and grabbed a bucket and started to douse the building with water. Persaud said that she tried to help but was prevented from doing so after she started to “stifle and cough” from the thick smoke.
Meantime, her parents Malcolm and Pulmattie ‘Veera’ Etwaru who were in the upper flat also started to suffocate and were at first unable to get down to safety. Her father eventually jumped over the rail on the stairway to escape while her mother grabbed some important documents and ran out to the veranda. The woman contemplated jumping but by then the fire was under control, Persaud recalled. She said that her father had to remove a zinc sheet that he had placed on the front stairs, for his wife to pass. He had put the zinc there to alert them in case the arsonist, who had attempted to enter the house before, tried to go up.
After escaping, Etwaru noticed a jar of gasoline with a hose and funnel attached to a bucket close to the front door. The hose and a piece of rolled up newspaper were pushed under the door and a cigarette lighter was nearby. He also noticed an opening on the picket fence and realized that the arsonist gained entry through his neighbours’ yard and used the same route to escape.
The terrified Pulmattie told Stabroek News that the man was apparently not satisfied and called her cellular phone at around 2.30 am the following day and told her “the game now start…” She disconnected the call.
The family said the police responded promptly when alerted about the fire but by then the man had already disappeared. The fire tender from the Onverwagt Fire Station also arrived at the scene and ensured that the fire was completely put out.
Persaud said a few days ago, the man called her reputed husband and told him he already bought a bucket and that “if you know what good fuh yuhself you should go lang yuh way.”
On May 28, he threw gasoline at her home at Bath Experiment Scheme and set it afire after threatening her. Just before that he had entered her parents’ yard with a cutlass and disconnected the phone line. Persaud had moved to her parents’ home after the man threatened her a few days earlier. Her brother arrived and caught him in the yard and chased him out. They ended up in an argument and before escaping he “broadsided him [her brother] with the cutlass” and again told Persaud that he was going to burn her house down.
Half an hour later, she heard the sound of the fire tender and her brother went to check on her home and confirmed that the man had carried out his threat. Pulmattie had told Stabroek News that before they heard the siren, the man called her cell phone. “He tell me he done burn she house and he gon burn me own next,” she had recounted.
The woman had said that she was very scared as many nights, they would see him lurking around her home and whenever they called the police, he would beat a hasty retreat. He also pelted her roof for a few nights. One night he was in her yard and when the police arrived, he ran to the back and used his cutlass to cut open a part of the high zinc fence and escaped. The police ran after him through the same opening but he quickly disappeared.
Persaud, meantime, recalled that on May 26, neighbours saw the man scaling her veranda. When she went to check on him he was fast asleep. Fearing that he would hurt her and her reputed husband, she kept calling the Fort Wellington Station and every time the police promised to “come just now” but never arrived. She heaved a sigh of relief when he awoke about three hours later and left quietly.
The first time the man burnt her house was on November 11, 2009. He had physically abused her and the court had asked him to leave the home. After that fire, she got help to rebuild her home. She and the man thereafter reconciled and he moved in back with her. On October 18, 2010 he reportedly sexually molested a ten-year-old girl and has been committed to stand trial in the High Court over this matter.
Persaud said some boys who were tending sheep saw the man taking the girl among the bushes and then heard her screaming. They ran to the scene and the man escaped. Since then the girl has been in the custody of the Child Care and Protection Agency.
After the preliminary inquiry, the man was committed to stand trial at the High Court. He has been released on $470,000 bail.