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Monday, May 27, 2024

Teenaged student charged with murder in deadly Guyana school fire

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A teenage student whom police in Guyana accuse of deliberately setting a fire in a girls’ dormitory that killed 18 schoolmates and a five-year-old boy has been charged as an adult with 19 counts of murder.

The 15-year-old girl appeared virtually at the hearing on Monday in a court south of the capital, Georgetown, and was ordered to be held in custody pending further court proceedings.

Investigators allege she started the blaze at Mahdia secondary school on 21 May in anger with the dorm administrator over the confiscation of her mobile phone. The government boarding school serves remote Indigenous villages.

The defendant was not allowed to plead to the charges and will make a second court appearance on 5 July, when state and defence lawyers will indicate if they are ready to start a preliminary trial. If found guilty, the defendant could face life in prison.

The fire at the school began shortly before midnight. All five doors to the dormitory had reportedly been locked from inside. More than two dozen students were injured. One of the critically injured students was flown to a New York hospital for specialist treatment, while most have been discharged.

The fire at the school began shortly before midnight. All five doors to the dormitory had reportedly been locked from inside. More than two dozen students were injured. One of the critically injured students was flown to a New York hospital for specialist treatment, while most have been discharged.

Guyana’s national security adviser, Gerald Gouveia, has said that the dorm administrator, or house mother, locked all the doors to prevent the female students, who were aged from 12 to 18, from sneaking out to socialise, and that she panicked and fumbled with the keys as the blaze raced through the building.

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