Alleged house fire murder victim youth died of carbon monoxide poisoning

PPA van (picture is illustrative).
PPA van (picture is illustrative). Source: Martin Dremljuga/ERR

A youth whose body was found by Rescue Board (Päästeamet) personnel attending a house fire in a South Estonian village earlier in the summer was alive when the building was set on fire, Baltic News Service reports.

The Rescue Board were called to the fire at the village of Kükitaja in Tartu County in the small hours of Sunday Jun. 30/Monday Jul. 1, where the 16 year-old male's body was later found. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a forensic report, daily Postimees says. The prosecutor's office is treating the incident as a murder case.

Two men were detained by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in connection with the incident, with one of them being placed in custody as a murder suspect.

The men, unnamed at the time of their detention, have been identified in the media as Eduard Kask, 21, and Rasmus Tilk, 22. The victim, who was living at the property with his grandmother, has not been named. The grandmother was reportedly away from the property at the time the fire started.

Tilk was effectively placed under house arrest following the PPA's initial investigation; Kask was remanded in custody. At the time, media reports said the latter could be held in custody as a murder suspect for up to two months, i.e. to the beginning of September.

PPA spokesperson Rain Vosman confirmed the chain of events arose from a settling of scores, BNS reports. PPA investigations also revealed the victim and the suspects knew each other, with some indication that the events may have followed a dispute over the owing of a €60 debt.

Neighbors told Postimees that the victim had been keeping "suspicious" company and his behavior had been getting increasingly problematic in the period leading up to the alleged murder.

Kask, the murder suspect in the case, has an extant criminal record in relation to crimes against the person and was on probation at the time of the fire, according to BNS.

Press spokesperson for the prosecutor's office Kauri Sinkevicius said a forensic examination established that the victim was alive at the time the house was deliberately set on fire, adding that at this stage it is unclear whether the suspects had physically assaulted him prior to setting the house on fire and whether he may have incurred injuries which rendered him unconscious or otherwise unable to flee, or was even sleeping at the time the fire took hold.

Prosecutor Maarja-Liisa Sari described the course of events as especially tragic in that a young person was killed in a particularly cruel manner by being burnt to his death in his own home. 

"Legally, we are talking about a murder committed in a particularly torturous manner and one dangerous to the public," the prosecutor said. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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