Police link fires to teen, 18

By Peter de Graaf


Kawakawa is breathing a sigh of relief following the arrest of an 18-year-old man after a spate of arson attacks in the Bay of Islands town.

Three teenage boys, aged 13 to 16, will be dealt with by police Youth Services for their part in the arsons and related burglaries.

Police believe the group was behind four suspicious fires in the town, including at the rear of the VIP Superette on January 13.

No one has been charged as yet for the destruction of Swimming Northland's archives two days earlier, when 40 years' worth of swimming club records, results and photos were lost when a shed on Derrick Rd was gutted by fire.

Police inquiries into that fire are continuing.

Acting Detective Sergeant Greg Johnson, who headed the investigation, said the 18-year-old was arrested on January 23 and remanded into custody until February 12. He was also charged with two burglaries of commercial buildings in Kawakawa.

The other accused are too young to be charged in the district court.

Mr Johnson said it was sad that young people had been involved in the arson attacks.

"It is a very serious offence carrying a hefty penalty, but it is also such a danger to human life. Not only are they putting their own lives in jeopardy - they are risking the lives of their own whanau and community who turn out as volunteer firefighters."

Mr Johnson said police now had a "pretty clear picture" of who was responsible for the fires and would continue their inquiries this week.

"The most important thing for us has been stopping this behaviour before someone gets seriously hurt. We and the fire service will be taking a prevention approach with these kids and their families, making sure this doesn't happen again."

Kawakawa fire chief Wayne Martin was relieved to hear of the arrest. The repeated call-outs had been tough on the volunteers and their employers, and had put the firefighters in danger. "Our lives were being put at risk through someone's stupidity ... The arrest is good work by the police, with help from members of the community," he said.

A fire which destroyed a double garage and a prized BMW on Derrick Rd last week found to have been caused by an electrical fault.

- Northern Advocate

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