EXCLUSIVE: Two months after a fire in Sydney’s Inner West damaged multiple properties, a NSW Police investigation into the cause of the blaze cause remains ongoing, strongly suggesting foul play or an element of criminality that could including the manufacture of drugs. Joanna Psaros reports.
At around 5:30am on Saturday 6th August, a fire broke out in a residential unit above a shop on Edwin Street, Croydon. Fierce flames took multiple fire crews hours to fully extinguish and caused damage at least four properties, with six people rescued uninjured from the premises.
True Crime News Weekly reported at the time that residents smelled a strong chemical scent surrounding the site. One fire fighter on the scene confirmed that methamphetamine use or manufacture was a possible cause, and senior police investigators were spotted arriving shortly afterwards.
When TCNW requested an update on the case last week, NSW Police confirmed the investigation was still ongoing.
“No charges have been laid and investigations into the cause of the fire continue,” a spokesperson said.
“As those investigations are continuing, no further information is available at this time.”
While most safety barricades were removed several weeks ago, the premises in which the fire originated are empty and still boarded up.
A few days following the fire in Croydon, one of the people to have escaped the dangerous fire publicly came out to quell the suburban rumours circling the incident.
The woman, who claims to have been inside the residential unit where the fire commenced, took to social media to explain the blaze had nothing to do with drugs but was instead started by an electrical overload caused by four e-bike batteries being charged at the same time.
“I was one of six up on that awning. I was in the house and was actually the one who discovered the fire,” the woman posted to a local community page on Facebook on August 9.
“It wasn’t just one e bike it was 4 charging at the same time.”
It’s not the first time Edwin Street has made crime news headlines. In a grisly twist, the fire took place just three doors from a residential boarding house that was the scene of a brutal rape and murder in 2013.
21-year-old Daniel Stani-Reginald was sentenced to at least 30 years imprisonment over the horrific sexual assault and killing of his neighbour, Tosha Thakkar.
These days, the area is better known by neighbours for the suspicion that it’s a popular spot for the sale and use of meth.
“Even after the fire started, I saw a few people come down from that way, and it looked like they were smoking bongs or something, here on our street,” a resident told TCNW in August.
Police refused to comment on the likelihood that meth production activities had taken place at the premises. However, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s Illicit Drug Data Report 2019–20 shows a dramatic increase in the supply of this drug nationally over recent years, with New South Wales topping the country in both the number of busts and amount of meth seized by authorities.
The vast majority of meth labs in Australia are residential. Manufacture of the drug in such settings is relatively simple, requiring basic precursor chemicals (often imported from China and Southeast Asia) and readily available equipment- but notoriously dangerous. Highly flammable chemicals used in the cooking process pose a constant risk of explosion.
In 2018, a drug lab fire in Sydney’s Epping led to the discovery of sixty kilograms, or approximately $30 million worth of meth – also located in a residential unit.
The Police Superintendent in charge told reporters at the time that these labs “pose a serious risk to the community” and advised members of the public to keep a lookout for signs such as toxic smells and suspicious people seen in the neighbourhood.
More news on the police investigation into the Croydon fire is expected by next month.