Murder probe launched as deadly New Zealand hostel fire was ‘arson’

A fire that killed at least six people in a Wellington hostel, in New Zealand, is now being treated as a homicide investigation.

Police Inspector Dion Bennett said they haven’t yet arrested anybody but they have a list of people they want to speak to and hope to quickly identify any suspects or persons of interest. He declined to say if they had found accelerant or other evidence of criminal behaviour at the scene.

Police said there had been a couch fire at the Loafers Lodge hostel about two hours before the large, fatal fire on Tuesday. They said the couch fire was not reported to emergency services at the time, and they were investigating to see if there was any link between the two fires.

Bennett also told reporters there was more reconnaissance and examination to be done in some unstable parts of the four-story hostel building and his “gut feeling” was the death toll could rise.

The homicide investigation represents a change in outlook by police, who on Tuesday said they didn’t believe the fire was deliberately lit.

Liam Hockings, a journalist, is one of the hostel’s missing residents, news outlet RNZ reported.

Mr Hockings is the brother of BBC presenter Lucy Hockings, it added.

More to follow…

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