Student tries to set himself alight

A MAN believed to be a Rhodes University student is recovering in hospital after he allegedly went on a violent and bizarre early morning rampage through Grahamstown.

Although police and university officials remained tight-lipped yesterday, sources said the man allegedly assaulted a woman student and set a campus pool table room on fire before storming down African Street to a petrol station.

There the man allegedly bought a cigarette lighter from the convenience store and then walked outside and attacked a female pump attendant before stealing R18 petrol.

He then allegedly drank the petrol and tried to set himself alight.

Grahamstown police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender and Rhodes University media relations officer Zamuxolo Matiwana revealed few details.

Govender, however, confirmed a possible case of arson was being investigated at Rhodes.

Police yesterday declined to comment on claims the fire could have been started by a student who was admitted to hospital soon afterwards.

Although Govender confirmed somebody was taken to Settlers Hospital with cuts on his hands after he was found by security guards nearby soon after the fire was started at the campus building, she said he was not a suspect.

“There is someone in hospital but it seems unrelated.”

However, Kenny Knoetze, the assistant manager of Grahamstown security firm Hi-Tec, said his staff rushed to the BP garage in African Street after a petrol attendant hit the panic alarm soon after 2am.

He said guards arrested the young man as he staggered along the road soaked in fuel and “under the weather”.

Knoetze said he reviewed the CCTV footage of the incident and spoke to his staff who said a thin young man bought a lighter from the station’s shop.

He then forced the attendant to use her magnetic strip to activate the pump.

“Then he takes the nozzle and sprays it all over himself,” Knoetze said of the video. “People said he tried to flick the lighter but it did not work.”

The man was taken to hospital and is believed to have later been transferred to a hospital in Port Elizabeth.

In response to further inquiries, Govender said police were investigating a possible link between the Rhodes fire and the garage incident. – David Macgregor and Mike Loewe

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