Police confirm courthouse arson

12:00 25/08/2010

Police want any information that will help catch the arsonist they believe destroyed the Kaikoura courthouse yesterday morning.

Detective Richard Rolton, of Blenheim, said police had found the area someone had broken into the building and where they believed the fire started.

Determining when the fire was lit would be difficult because the building was old and wooden, Mr Rolton said.

He would not give any more details about where and how the fire was lit or how the arsonist got into the building.

“We are sufficiently confident we have eliminated any accidental cause,” he said.

Anyone walking the streets of Kaikoura early on Tuesday should contact police so they could be eliminated as suspects, he said.

The remains of the 119-year-old courthouse will be demolished today as it was a risk to the public.

Acting Sergeant Dean Schroder, of Kaikoura, said closed circuit television footage would be used to identify people on the streets about the time the fire started.

He called the fire a senseless act.

“In my eyes, whoever is responsible hasn’t achieved anything,” he said.

“In the eyes of the community it is the death of a building and its untimely demise will be when the diggers come to demolish it,” Mr Schroder said.

Kaikoura Historical Society chairman Danny Smith said he was devastated the town had lost part of its history.

Some of the original courthouse furniture destroyed in the fire was irreplaceable, he said.

“We are wishing for something original to replace it so the memories can go on.”

Kaikoura District Court manager Pip O’Connell said he had not yet found an venue for the next sitting of the District Court on September 10. He did not know if the courthouse would be rebuilt.

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