Police are investigating an alleged case of arson after a couple died in a fire that destroyed four informal homes in Parkwood last week.
Boenjamin Jacobs, 56, and his girlfriend Delia Joos, 39 died after a roof collapsed on them as the fire raged in Parker’s Way on Wednesday September 8.
The family of Mr Jacobs, fondly known as “Boenie”, said he died a “martyr” trying to save his girlfriend when she ran back to get something in their burning home. However, they added that they were unable to lay him to rest as his body had been burnt beyond recognition and forensic investigators were still conducting DNA tests.
Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for City Fire and Rescue Service said they had received the emergency call at 12.34pm, with crews from Ottery and Wynberg first on the scene.
“The first body, that of an adult female, was located at 1.03pm and the other fatality shortly thereafter. The second body was burnt beyond recognition.”
Mr Carelse said a total of four backyard dwellings had been destroyed, leaving several people displaced. Two other structures on the property, one of them a double-storey home, had not been affected by the fire.
Ward councillor William Akim said on the day of the fire the owner of the double-storey had been visited by Law Enforcement who had warned him to dismantle the structure which posed a safety hazard to the tenants living in the yard.
Law enforcement’s visit, he said, followed a number of complaints which had been lodged with the housing department by residents who had requested that the top storey of the house be removed.
“This structure is a safety hazard as it is unstable. The tenant did not adhere to the warning notice so Law Enforcement went around on the same day of the fire to instruct the tenant to dismantle the illegal structure.”
Mr Akim urged residents to take the necessary safety precautions.
A few days after the fire the police received a statement from a resident who alleged the fire had been deliberately lit.
Captain Wynita Kleinsmith said: “However, we still need to investigate before we can execute an arrest,” said Captain Kleinsmith.
Meanwhile family members and friends of Mr Jacobs and Ms Joos are mourning their deaths, and they are patiently waiting on the DNA testing results before they can put their loved ones to rest.
Shafieka Cornelius, the wife of Mr Jacobs’ cousin Shamyl, said Mr Jacobs had tried to get water to douse the fire.
“He was throwing the water but the fire was spreading very quickly, maybe because the bungalows were made of wood. Everything they had burnt to the ground – appliances, documentation, fridges, and more. People from Blackbird Avenue came to help us douse the fire as well.”
Ms Cornelius said Mr Jacbos was the type of man who would save anyone. “When his girlfriend went back in to get something, he went after her. But the roof fell on top of them.”
Aboubakar Jacobs said his brother Boenjamin, would be remembered as someone who “was there for those who suffered”.
“He was the type of person that will be by your side in any crisis,” he said.
Fatima White, a teacher at Parkwood Primary, said she also remembered Mr Jacobs as someone who would go the extra mile for others. “I believe Boenie went the way he lived. I knew him for many years, he was like family. When I heard about it (the tragedy), I had to see it for myself. But when I got there his brother Boebie (Aboubakar) did not want me to look at the body.”
Ms White said Mr Jacobs had supported her mother when she had cancer. “Boenie would come visit my mother and ask her if he could go and pay her bills. This is the type of person he was with everyone. When I heard that he went into the burning structure to save his girlfriend, I knew that was him. He died a hero.”
Ridwaan Blake, said he and Mr Jacobs had grown up together and had attended Fairmount High School. “He was a brilliant sportsman and we were very close, at school. We played rugby together. I was sad when I heard about the fire, because he was like a brother to me.”
Josephine Rossouw said her sister-in-law, Ms Joos, had been a “jolly person” and worked as a caregiver who looked after the elderly.
Ms Rossouw said: “Our house is broken and (her death) feels unreal. Delia had three children aged 22, 11 and 8 and we are looking after them.”
If anyone is able to assist the families of the deceased, contact Ms Rossouw on 068 043 6892 or Mr Jacobs on 061 677 8436