A series of CCTV cameras tracked the movement of two young men accused of deliberately lighting four late-night fires in the Napier CBD, a jury was told in Napier District Court yesterday.
According to Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker, a review of the images identified two men in the vicinity of each fire late on the night of Queen's Birthday, June 1, last year.
Each was quickly extinguished, there was little damage, and inquiries led to the arrests of Daniel Joshua Cheatley, now 26, and Irimana Bell, now 23, each yesterday denying four charges of arson at the start of a trial before Judge Geoff Rea and a jury of seven men and five women.
The fires were lit in rubbish at the rear of business premises, accessed by service lanes, and Mr Walker said that from the CCTV recordings police were able to establish the order in which they were set over a period of little more than an hour. The fires were at Herschell St backpacking lodge Archies Bunker, Bloodline Tattoo Co in Hastings St, neighbouring bar the Brazen Head, and the County Hotel, on the corner of Herschell and Browning streets.
Fires were mainly confined to the rubbish, but damage was caused to exterior piping at the Brazen Head, and an umbrella at the County Hotel, to where police were first called by backpacking lodge management who noticed the canvas burning soon after having extinguished a fire in their own wheely bin and rubbish fadge next door.
In the Crown's opening address, Mr Walker said it was a "circumstantial case" for while it alleged the two acted together and the images placed them near each of the scenes - one scootering from scene to scene and the other on foot - there was no evidence as to "who lit the match".
"The Crown says each by accompanying the other must have been encouraging the other," he said. "In other words, one has lit, the other has been a party."
He said backpacking lodge management saw a person at the County Hotel scene when they noticed the umbrella burning. The person fled when called out to, and there was possibly a second person. The accused, who at the time were both living at a nearby Marine Parade flat, were spoken to by police soon after the fires. While each deny anything to do with the first and last incidents, they tended to "point the finger" at the other, Mr Walker said.