A teenage girl has been charged with 19 murders for allegedly starting a fatal fire in her school dormitory in Guyana earlier this month.
The 15-year-old student was charged as an adult on Monday for the deaths of 18 mostly Indigenous girls and a five-year-old boy at a school in Mahdia. She appeared before the Diamond Magistrate’s Court in the capital Georgetown on Monday.
While the court did not require her to enter a plea to the charges, it stated that the teen would be held at a juvenile holding centre until further proceedings could take place.
The charges were filed as the country mourns the horrific incident that took place late on 21 May at a residential school that mostly educates children from far-flung Indigenous villages.
“Investigations reveal the student is suspected of having set the devastating fire because her mobile (phone) was taken away by the dorm’s mother and a teacher,” local police said in a statement last week. More than two dozen pupils were hurt in the fire, one of whom was flown to New York over the weekend for specialised care. The suspect also sustained injuries in the fire. According to officials, dorm administration would locked all five of the building doors to prevent students from leaving without permission at night.
According to a government statement, of the 19 fatalities, 13 could not be “visually identified” as a result of the fire. On Friday, the government revealed that DNA testing had been used to verify the victims’ identities and that their bodies would be returned to their families. The five-year-old son of a dorm administrator was among those killed in the fire.
On Monday, Guyana’s education minister, Priya Manickchand, announced that the school’s fire safety measures and alarm system would also be investigated.