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Arrest made, charges laid

Dave Morrison’s home was thought to be salvageable, but a sleepout was razed in a separate blaze. PHOTOS/MARY ARGUE

Police have arrested a person and charged them with multiple counts of arson and endangering life in relation to several fires that ripped through properties in Morisons Bush.

The person was to appear in Masterton District Court yesterday facing several charges of arson – intentionally damaging property by fire, including two counts of danger to life, and charges of attempted arson and intentional damage to property.

The arrest and charges come after police confirmed that a 47-year-old woman sought in relation to the fire investigation had been found, and scene examinations at Wards Line completed.

A late-night stakeout resulted in police finding the woman early on Wednesday morning.

Detective Inspector Darrin Thomson said police were speaking with the woman and she was assisting with their inquiries.

Multiple fires ripped through two properties on Wards Line in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The residents sleeping inside at the time, were lucky to have escaped unscathed.

Fire and Emergency confirmed the fires were being treated as suspicious. There was a strong police presence and fire investigators on the scene.

The Van Dalen’s home was completely destroyed in one of several fires on Wards Line on Tuesday morning.

Jenny Van Dalen, whose home was one of the multiple buildings destroyed on her property, said the community had been on edge since everything went up in flames.

“It was a relief to the whole community that she had been found.

“People who haven’t even been here, but just heard about what happened, said they couldn’t sleep last night.”

Van Dalen said an officer had been stationed at each of the properties on Wards Line overnight because there was a suspicion the woman might return to feed the cows.

“The cows are so important to her, if she goes back, it will be to the field.

“He [the officer] heard something about 2’oclock this morning [Wednesday]. It was her.”

Van Dalen confirmed the officer chased the woman and tackled her to the ground.

Salvaging what they could on Wednesday, Van Dalen said they were taking each day at a time.

Several structures, including their home and an implement shed, were gutted in the fire.

“Everything is black.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do yet, all our machinery has gone.”

She said, however, they had received overwhelming support from the community.

“It is really heart-warming. We had people here this morning clearing out the shed, there has been heaps of help, and packages from rural support. It’s heartening.

“We want to say thank you. A lot of people are praying for us, and it gives us the resilience to carry on.”

Neighbour Dave Morrison’s property, half a kilometre down the road, was the scene of the second fire.

His two-storey house was still standing with multiple places blackened. However, a sleepout at the back of the property had been completely razed.

Morrison told media he was elated the woman had been found and said there had been fears for her safety.

In a public appeal on Tuesday, Thomson said police were concerned for the woman’s well-being and asked for any sightings to be reported to them. They said she should not be approached.

Police thanked the public for its assistance on Wednesday, and encouraged anyone in the Wards Line area between 2-4am on Tuesday to contact them.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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