Witness: Resort fire was nightmare

Evidence concludes in attempted murder/arson trial

Justice Charles Quin heard evidence on Tuesday from two women who were present when George Dexter Evans set fires at the office of Plantation Village Beach Resorts last December.  

Maritza Evans, the defendant’s wife, said she felt “all of our lives were in danger” and office manager Lisa Seymour said she was still living that nightmare. 

Apart from Ms Seymour, who indicated she was still suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, no one was reported injured. A statement provided by the property manager put the total damage at US$200,000. Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward put into evidence a book of photographs showing damage to the reception area and other parts of the office building. 

Evans, 53, pleaded guilty on Monday to damaging the property by fire and being reckless as to whether the life of another person would be endangered by it. He denied attempting to murder Mrs. Evans or intending to endanger her life and did not give evidence. 

Mrs. Evans, head of housekeeping at the resort, told the court her husband, who was unemployed, had started drinking a lot and accusing her of having relationships with other men. Sometimes he would tell her, “Women like you shouldn’t be alive, you know.” She said she loved him and kept hoping he would change his lifestyle. 

She said in November she rented an apartment so she would have some place to go when he started acting wild and she got scared. On the night of 11 December, she took food to the matrimonial home. He was saying all kinds of things and went into the kitchen and picked up a knife, but he didn’t do anything with it. She got scared and on the pretext of needing to buy dish soap, she left and went to the apartment. 

She went to work the next morning at 9am and started her duties in the laundry room. The phone kept ringing, so she went to the office and when she got there her husband was there. Ms Seymour was present, as was another employee. 

She said her husband told her, “Come here, I have something good for you.” She followed him to the door and he went to his truck which was close to the office and he took out a bottle labelled H-7 [an industrial cleaner and degreaser]. She stepped back inside and tried to close the door because she didn’t know what was in the bottle. She said her husband kept tugging on the door and shoving his hand inside, spraying a liquid on her. It smelled like gas and something else in it. It burned her face. She yelled to Lisa to help her close the door. 

After they got the door closed Evans sprayed it with the same liquid. Then he lit it and it went completely in flames, then went right out. He went back to his truck, started it and drove straight into the glass alongside the office door.  

Then he got a gas can from the truck, threw liquid from it through the hole he had made with the truck. She saw him motion with his hand and then there was fire inside. She ran out the back door and pulled the fire alarm. 

Ms Seymour’s evidence added details. She said Evans first came in the office around 9.30am carrying a machete. She knew him and advised him to leave the premises, which he did. He came back shortly after 10am, calm and with a smile, so she phoned his wife. 

After she had helped Mrs. Evans get the front door closed she saw Evans throw liquid on the door and light it with a cigarette lighter. The liquid was not bubbly and did not smell like H-7. It had a high scent like gasoline. After he lit it, it flamed up and vapoured off. 

Then he got back into his truck, she related, revved it and drove it into Mrs. Evans’ car, which rammed her car. 

He got out with a gas can and she said, “Georgie, what are you doing this blessed Sunday morning?” 

She said he just looked at her, got back in the truck and drove toward the building. She jumped back inside and saw the front end of the truck enter the building. “The door, the glass, everything came in.” Then he got out of the truck again and pelted the gas inside from the gas can. “He lit the tip, threw [the can] into the front office and the nightmare started,” Ms Seymour said. 

Huge black smoke billowed up and she got a fire extinguisher, but the fire kept burning. The other employee was calling 911. Ms Seymour ran out the back door to go around the front with the garden hose and hollered to guests to bring their fire extinguishers. 

The truck was still partly inside the building and she was afraid it would explode. Her biggest fear was that propane cylinders on the property would explode. “It was going to be devastating if that happened,” she said. 

Some of the guests came to help her and six men pulled the truck out of the building. She and the guests got the fire under control with the extinguishers, but there was still black smoke. The fire department came and wet everything down. 

Both women indicated that Evans acted as if he had been drinking. Questioned by defence attorney John Furniss, police constable Daniel Spence said he found beer bottles and a rum flask in the truck. 

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