31 May 2024

Man charged with murder after Holt house fire

| Albert McKnight
Holt home destroyed by fire

Human remains were found by firefighters at the Holt property in the early hours of 22 May 2024. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A man has been charged with murder after a body was found in the remains of a Belconnen house fire earlier this month.

Atem Marol Deng has been accused of killing 36-year-old Kot Ador Deng, also known as Bol Ador Deng, as well as setting the home in Giltinan Place, Holt, on fire on 22 May 2024.

The 38-year-old was charged with murder and arson when he faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday (31 May), to which his Legal Aid lawyer, Edward Chen, said he would plead not guilty.

Emergency services had been called to the home at about 2:50 am that morning to find it alight before a body was found inside as firefighters battled the blaze. Police later announced it was Mr Ador Deng, who lived at the property.

ACT Policing said the fire was deemed suspicious and began an investigation. Police allege Atem Deng knew Mr Ador Deng and believe the house was set on fire due to a dispute between the pair. The two men are not related.

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It is alleged he bought an accelerant, which was used to assist in starting the fire.

Officers raided a home on Northbourne Avenue in Turner early on Friday morning and arrested Atem Deng. He was interviewed by police before he was charged.

“Police allege the man should have known that the deceased would have been in the residence at the time of the arson, and therefore the charge of murder is appropriate,” a police spokesperson said.

ACT Fire and Rescue HAZMAT crew

ACT Fire and Rescue crews came across the body as they fought the Holt house fire early in the morning of 22 May 2024. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Detective Acting Superintendent Stephen Ladd said the pair were not related but were both members of the Sudanese community.

He said the post-mortem found Mr Ador Deng’s cause of death was asphyxiation or smoke inhalation from the fire.

“Police will allege that after a dispute between the men that had been ongoing over the past few weeks, the gentleman that’s been charged went to the residence and set the fire deliberately,” he said.

“We don’t believe that anyone else was involved.”

He was not prepared to talk about the alleged dispute.

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“Our inquiries revealed that the fire was started with the use of an accelerant … we believe it was petrol,” Acting Superintendent Ladd said.

“The house was extensively damaged…. it was basically completely destroyed.”

He said Mr Ador Deng had lived in the property for a number of years, but had been away from Canberra for a couple of weeks leading up to this incident.

“The victim was known to police,” Acting Superintendent Ladd said.

In the courtroom on Friday, Atem Deng, who lives in Canberra City, did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody for a pre-hearing mention on 8 August.

The prosecutor confirmed it was not alleged to be a family violence matter.

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