A man from Paddonhurst suburb in Bulawayo allegedly tried to burn a female relative in a house after she bravely fought him off when he tried to rape her.
The incident occurred just after midnight on Monday.
The man (27), whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the victim, and the girl (17), live together in the house in Paddonhurst.
The victim has been admitted to the United Bulawayo Hospitals after suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.
Witnesses said they heard screams from the house as the man allegedly struggled to rape his relative.
Moments later, the witnesses said, the sound of fire brigade sirens pierced the cold Monday morning as fire trucks sped to the house.
A crowd quickly gathered to watch as flames rapidly engulfed the house.
“We woke up to screams in the middle of the night and we saw the house on fire. We rushed there to see how we could help. A neighbour drove to North End Fire Station to get help,” said one of the neighbours who asked not to be named.
“When we got to the house, the gory details of the story started to unfold.”
The neighbour said a young girl was screaming at the top of her voice and telling people that the man who lives with her tried to rape her.
“She was hysterical. She said the man sneaked into her room in the dead of the night and tried to slip into her sheets. The girl said she screamed and fought him off while he tried to cover her mouth,” said the neighbour.
The girl allegedly told neighbours that the man was so angry at being thwarted that he tried to burn down the house.
“He is said to have started by setting curtains in the lounge on fire but a tenant who stays in the cottage doused the flames,” said another neighbour.
The girl at that point, the neighbour said, had locked herself in her room.
“The man who was said to be very angry, set her room on fire in an apparent bid to burn her to death,” said the neighbour.
Another neighbour who also preferred anonymity said the girl ended up fainting as she is said to be asthmatic.
“She was rushed to the UBH in an ambulance while police arrested the man. He did not put up a fight and seemed to be sobering up quickly as he was said to be drunk,” the neighbour said.
“He had been behaving strangely the entire day as if something had got hold of him. He was violent. At one time he jumped into a neighbour’s yard and broke one of the windows there for unknown reasons,” said the witness.
Bulawayo Fire Brigade senior divisional officer, Mr Edward Mpofu, confirmed attending to the fire in Paddonhurst.
“The report came in at 12:33AM and the fire trucks attended the scene. They managed to contain the fire,” said Mr Mpofu.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango also confirmed that the man is in police custody.
“The man is in police custody for malicious damage to property. About the rape allegations, I cannot confirm that. Police are still investigating,” said Insp Simango. The Chronicle