lana del rey mulberry Alleged Manitoulin arsonist has violent history
The sounds of sirens have faded in Little Current, replaced by sighs of relief from residents.
Few may be ready to let their guard down all the way, however, even after police announced earlier this week they had made an arrest related to a string of suspicious fires in the Manitoulin Island town.
Charged with seven counts of arson is Clinton Gordon Haggart, 30, a former Greater Sudburian with a lengthy criminal history, whose own home and his mother in law’s were among the buildings damaged by fire these last two months.
Haggart appeared in bail court at the Gore Bay Courthouse on Monday and was remanded to appear again today.
Tom Spry, a former longtime police officer, who retired recently as Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands’ bylaw enforcement officer, lives close to the most recent fire, a spectacular blaze that destroyed a former curling club and church on Campbell Street West on Aug. 7.
20 years of policing, there’s not too much that upsets me, Spry said. standing there, just going, ‘Oh yeah, OK,’ but there was an oil tank or something in there that went up and put up a big mushroom could of flame about 300 feet in the air, and at that time I said, ‘OK, maybe I better move back a tad.’ calm nerves helped him keep a steady hand as he shot several photos of the fire.
wasn’t too concerned, but I know lots of people were, he said.
He certainly shared their relief at seeing an arrest made somebody got hurt or killed. really hate to see that happen, Spry said.
Last Thursday’s fire was the most recent in a string of at least five suspicious blazes to strike Little Current recently, and while police still haven’t connected each count of arson with specific fires, it’s known that Haggart had connections to two of the damaged buildings.
The first was the Wilson Street rental home where he lived with his wife, Katrina Bowerman, and two children, lost in a mid afternoon fire on June 13.
One month later, a fire struck the Blake Street West home of Haggart’s mother in law, Margaret Bowerman, and her teenage son.
A garage on Blake Street caught fire on July 23, but that blaze was extinguished, before a shed, also on Blake Street, was burned on Aug. 5.
Ontario Provincial Police, in a media release about the shed fire, said it was being treated as of a series. the curling club caught fire a few days later, OPP didn’t confirm if it was also part of that series, though they did say it was being treated as suspicious, and they released little more information before Haggart was arrested this past Sunday.
This isn’t his first brush with the law, as he’s been in and out of Sudbury courtrooms for at least a decade, first for a string of break ins and vandalism, then later for much more serious crimes.
In 2008, Haggart was sentenced to nearly two years for sexual assault for raping a woman on a remote shore of Wahnapitae Lake in 2005.
Haggart suffered a jail house beating at the hands of fellow inmates Derek Spilman and Reginald Heffern in 2008. Haggart needed life saving surgery to repair a ruptured spleen.
Const. Allan Boyd, community services officer for the OPP, said Haggart was known to police.
were familiar with the gentleman, yes, Boyd said.
Boyd said the investigation continues, under the direction of Det. Insp. Colleen McCormick, of the OPP Criminal Investigations Unit.
the community has been very concerned and fear was very high, but I’m quite confident to say people can rest easier now, Boyd said.
He said he wasn’t aware if any more suspects were being sought.
Boyd urged residents to remain vigilant, however, and come forward with any information that may be relevant to the investigation.
little piece of information is important, Boyd said. like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. One little piece may not mean much, but once you get each little piece and put it together, a better picture is formed. with information can call the Little Current detachment at 705 368 2200 or, if they choose to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222 TIPS.
NEMI Mayor Al MacNevin welcomed news of an arrest, as well as the recent rain, though he said many in the community remain tense.
going to be a little while before people drop their guard, MacNevin said.
He was happy no one had been injured in the fires, other than a pair of firefighters treated for heat exhaustion and released.
MacNevin credited the lack of wind, as well as the timely response of emergency personnel, for keeping anyone else from being hurt, or more property from being damaged.
been lucky, I think, because there weren’t fire hazard warnings out, but conditions were dry, he said.