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Bloemfontein - A 31-year-old man accused of five counts of murder and arson appeared in the Thaba-Nchu Magistrate's Court near Bloemfontein on Thursday, Free State police said.

Colonel Thandi Mbambo said the case against Lehlohonolo Joshua Tsiane, also known as Terata, was postponed to November 29 for a formal bail application.

"It is alleged that on the 3rd of March 2017 at about 1:20 in the morning the suspect arrived at the victim’s house in Thole, Ratau Extension in Thaba-Nchu and an argument ensued. The suspect then left the shack and allegedly went to buy petrol. He allegedly poured [the petrol] on the shack before setting it alight with all five people inside."

Moleboheng Rethabile Sepagela, 8, Malehlohonolo Dimakatso Sepagela, 6, Rethabile Augustinah Ralebakeng, 9, and Obakeng Junior Ralebakeng, 8, burnt to death while Mmokgo Maria Sepagela, 24, died later in hospital.

"Mmokgo managed to escape the burning shack to ask for assistance. Unfortunately she met her assailant who was still waiting outside. The suspect then hit her with a stick on the head before running away. The neighbour managed to call police who then summoned all role players to the scene. They then extinguished the fire and took Mmokgo to the hospital where she succumbed to her injuries after six days."

She said it was alleged that Tsiane fled to Ladybrand where he committed a housebreaking. He was later arrested and sentenced to two years imprisonment on a charge of housebreaking. 

He was later traced to the Ladybrand prison and arrested for the Thaba-Nchu murder and arson.