South African man says he started a fire that killed 76 people while hiding a body

Fire at an apartment building in downtown Johannesburg killed 76 people . Credit: AP / ITV News

A man says he started a fire at a building in South Africa which killed 76 people while trying to hide a body.

His unexpected confession came when the man was testifying at an ongoing inquiry into the causes of the fire in August, 2023, at an apartment building in downtown Johannesburg, which was one of South Africa's worst disasters.

The 29-year-old, whose identity wasn't disclosed, was trying to get rid of the body of someone he had strangled in the basement of the rundown apartment complex on the orders of a drug dealer.

ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery reports on the deadly blaze in August 2023

He said, at the inquiry, he killed another man on the night of the fire by beating him and strangling him, according to South African media reports of the testimony.

Then he poured gasoline on the man's body and set it alight with a match, according to the reports, he said.

He testified that he was a drug user and was told to kill the man by a drug dealer who lived in the building.

The man was facing 76 counts of murder, 120 counts of attempted murder and a charge of arson, police said in a statement later on Tuesday.

The inquiry he was testifying at isn't a criminal proceeding and his confession came as a complete surprise - he was invited to give evidence because he lived in the building.

Emergency services officials at the time said most of the fire escapes in the building had been locked or chained closed that night, making the blaze even deadlier.

Many people jumped out of windows - some as high as three floors up - to escape the inferno, according to witnesses and health officials.

Some said they had to throw their babies and children out, hoping they would be caught by people below.

Many of the injured suffered broken limbs and backs from jumping out the windows.

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