Reward still stands in arson case

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Duane Mackie stands in front of his friends’ home, which was damaged in a still-unsolved arson in October.

A Hay River man is not about to let an unsolved arson at his friends’ house be forgotten.

Duane Mackie is continuing to offer a cash reward for information that leads to a conviction in the case, and other people have pledged more money to add to the total.

No arrest has yet been made for the Oct. 29 fire which destroyed a vehicle and severely damaged the home.

Mackie said the RCMP contacted his friends in late December or early January to say they had no suspects, although they were not closing the case.

“So that is when I felt that I had to try and do something,” said Mackie. “I didn’t want it to just fade away into another memory, you know.”

So in January, Mackie pledged $1,000 for a reward and announced it on social media.

“It was not long after that, like within two weeks maximum, I think we were up to $5,000,” he said.

The additional pledges of reward money were made by more than 15 other residents of Hay River.

“It’s not like a specific group of people,” said Mackie. “It’s people from all walks of life in Hay River, which is very cool.”

The house is owned by a married couple, which includes Mackie’s ex-wife, and he said he is a friend of the family. They even play together in a band.

“I’ve known them for 30 years,” he said. “It’s the mother of my daughter, and their kids are like my own. I’ve been around them since they were born.”

According to an RCMP news release at the time of the arson, a vehicle was set on fire in a residential driveway in the early morning hours of Oct. 29 and the fire spread from the vehicle to the occupied residence.

The sole person in the house at the time was not injured.

While investigating the scene, officers located a stolen vehicle on the property. It had been stolen earlier in the night.

That vehicle, which is believed to have been stolen by the arsonist, was not damaged in the fire.

“I want to keep it fresh, so that it keeps being talked about until this person gets caught,” said Mackie of the incident. “I mean, it’s arson. It’s dangerous. They could have killed people.”

Mackie noted no one has lived in the house since the fire.

“They’re hoping to be in before winter this year,” he said, noting all the contents of the home were destroyed more from smoke damage than fire.

Mackie said somebody somewhere knows who caused the fire, and may be encouraged by the reward to reveal new information about the arsonist or arsonists, who apparently targeted the house at random.

“And hopefully we can get them behind bars,” he said.

Mackie hopes the reward eventually gets claimed, but noted it has not yet generated any credible calls.

“If the tip leads to a conviction, then the reward is paid out,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Const. Matt Halstead, a media relations officer with the Hay River RCMP Detachment, said the file on the arson investigation remains open.

“At this time, we don’t have any information that we can release regarding suspects, but we are hoping that anyone with information will come forward,” he told The Hub.

Halstead said the RCMP has no opinion on the reward being offered by community residents.

“That’s not something that really affects us,” said Halstead. “So it’s not something that I can really offer a comment on.”