Officer spots smoke detectors, gas can at burned house

Rosie Mullaley
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Trial for man accused of intentionally setting fire gets underway

Kevin Charles Roberts speak to his lawyer Mark Gruchy before the start of proceedings in his trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Wednesday.
— Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

A house that police say was intentionally burned by fire had three smoke detectors.

Whether or not any of them were working is a question that has yet to be answered.

They certainly weren’t in good condition when an RNC forensic identification officer arrived at the house on 32 Blackmarsh Road in

St. John’s that night.

Const. Mike Ghaney photographed the house on June 5, 2011, shortly after firefighters had extinguished the blaze.

Ghaney testified Wednesday at Newfoundland Supreme Court during the opening day of the trial of Kevin Charles Roberts.

Roberts, who was living in the house at the time, is suspected of deliberately setting the fire.

The house was extensively damaged, but the sole female occupant of the two-apartment home escaped unharmed.

RNC fire investigators determined the fire was suspicious.

Roberts was arrested and faces charges of arson with disregard for human life, breaching a recognizance and breaching a probation order to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

He’s been in custody since his arrest.

Ghaney told the court the smoke detector near the front porch of the house had no batteries in it and one in the basement was found on the floor. Another in the upstairs hallway, an electric one, had wires coming out of the base of it, with the cover found on a nearby table.

He said there was also a gas can found outside the house.

In all, Ghaney took almost 200 photos of the fire scene.

He testified that it’s not up to him to make any determinations as to how or why the smoke detectors were in the condition they were, or to conclude anything about the gas can.

“I’m just the photo guy,” he said.

He said the investigators make the conclusions after gathering all the evidence.

Two women — who saw the fire that night as they walked by, alerted the female tenant and called police — are scheduled to take the stand today.

In all, Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Ivany plans to call more than 30 witnesses. Mark Gruchy is representing Roberts.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Geographic location: 32 Blackmarsh Road

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