Police station arson fire: detectives kept US$45,000 exhibit cash in stove

Theft accused ... (L-R) Detective Inspector Stanley Musekiwa, Detective Sergeant Masimba Stanley Gwasunda and Detective Constable Takaidza Mugwisi charged over fire and theft
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HARARE – Three police detectives appeared in court on Tuesday accused of deliberately starting a fire at the Harare Central Police Station on August 6 to conceal the theft of US$45,000.

The trio, a court heard, ignored a directive to take the cash to a safe kept at the homicide division of the Criminal Investigations Department and instead placed it inside a four-plate stove kept in the exhibits room.

A fire broke out at around 1AM on August 6, and after firefighters battled for several hours to put out the blaze, investigators moved in and discovered the cash had been taken before the fire started.

Detective Inspector Stanley Musekiwa, 46, the officer in charge of CID Stores; Detective Constable Takaidza Mugwisi, 36, who was on guard duties at the exhibits room on the night of the theft and Detective Sergeant Masimba Stanley Gwasunda, 43, the exhibit officer, were charged with theft and malicious damage to property when they appeared before Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa.

Prosecuting, Pardon Dziva said on June 22 this year, Mugwisi recovered US$40,500 from a suspect who had stolen the cash during a home invasion in Belvedere. The cash, together with US$5,000 recovered on different occasions, was handed over to Musekiwa, who in turn gave it to Gwasunda.

“Musekiwa and Gwasunda who were supposed to place the money in a safe at CID Homicide for safe keeping after being instructed by CID deputy director crime instead stashed the cash into a four plate stove oven which was in Office 26 at CID Stores,” charged Dziva.

Dziva said Mugwisi was placed on night guard duties securing CID offices including the exhibits room on the night of August 5 into August 6.

Prosecutors say at around 1AM on August 6, the three officers “took advantage of darkness after an electric fault at Harare Central Police Station and proceeded to Office 26 and stage-managed a break-in by cutting the padlock that secures the screen gate using a bolt cutter, while in actual fact they used keys to open the gate to gain entry.”

“They stole the cash which was in a bag and yet to be quantified exhibits before they set the room alight thereby destroying several other exhibits comprising two four-plate stoves, a fridge, a bed, various clothing, several crates of beer, mobile phones, several TV sets, radios and gas tanks. The fire caused massive structural damage to the building and the value of destroyed exhibits and building is yet to be quantified,” added Dziva.

Despite being on guard duties, Mugwisi had “disappeared from the scene of the crime” when the fire brigade arrived.

The fire brigade concluded that the fire was deliberately started in Room 26 and a forensic report said there was “no residual remains of the cash from the four plate stove oven drawer, which indicates there was no cash prior to the fire.”

Musekiwa’s three wives followed proceedings from the public gallery.

The prosecution is opposing bail. Magistrate Gofa postponed the matter to Wednesday for continuation of the bail hearing. – ZimLive