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The man suspected of starting the forest fire in Funchal in August 2016 admitted the crime at the first interrogation, but today, at the beginning of the trial in court he remained silent.

“It was not me that day. I had drunk alcohol and took pills, painkillers,” said Paulo Gonçalves, 24, who is in pre-trial detention and responds to a crime of aggravated forest fire and three negligent homicide crimes.

The statements of the accused at the first interrogation, on August 10, 2016, were reproduced at the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, during the trial in which the panel of judges is presided over by Filipe Câmara.

The defendant is suspected of having set fire to a forest area in the parish of São Roque, near São Roque, which, due to the weather (high temperatures (37 degrees Celsius), dry weather and strong wind (70kmh) that spread to a vast area of ​​the county.

On August 9, fire struck areas in central Funchal and three women died, burnt to death in their homes.

Paulo Gonçalves was detained on the day the fire broke out and his criminal record was soon known, which included a 2010 trial, in which he was acquitted of the charge of causing a fire in the premises of a company in the parish of Santo António, Along with three other people.

In reading the facts regarding the fire of August 2016, Judge Filipe Câmara said that the defendant acted “consciously, freely and deliberately”, knowing that the fire would assume great proportions, endangering people and property.

However, when he was heard on interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Court, the defendant claimed that he only wanted to “clear the bush” near the house where he lived.

The result, however, was a massive fire that resulted in the deaths of three people, 600 people made homeless, damage to three hundred houses and a large devastated forest area, with losses estimated at 157 million euros by Regional Government of Madeira.

Judge Filipe Câmara also recalled that 230 people were evacuated from two hospitals and several hotels were evacuated.

The court today 24th May 2017 began hearing witnesses.

Photo Diario Noticias