“Incense Man” dead in house fire

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 8, 2024

The sole resident of a home on Gibnut Street in Belize City perished on Wednesday night, February 7, while inside his wooden structure as it was being destroyed by flames.

Amandala has confirmed the identity of the deceased as Phillip Cattouse, also known as “Cutty” or “Incense Man”, 54, an employee of Pou’s Meat Pie on New Road in Belize City.

“Phillip used to sell incense, but he has been working with us for nearly two years. He never makes a fuss with anyone at work, but whenever he is upset about anything he would go off by himself for a while, or he would miss work for a day. When he didn’t show up by 6:00 this morning I thought he was taking the day off, until I heard the sad news,” said Maria, his boss at Pou’s Meat Pie.

According to a neighbor in the area, they mentioned to Amandala that sometime before 11:00 p.m., the sound of a couple fighting was heard coming out of Cattouse’s home, but they never paid it any mind as they didn’t want to be involved.

Then shortly after, the sound of someone screaming for help was also heard, but they also ignored until the cries were heard repeatedly, then they decided to take a peep at what was happening. At that moment they saw the smoke exiting the structure, and then alerted the other surrounding neighbors, who tried to assist, but their efforts failed.

“I come try assist di man fi tek out ahn, kaa di man di cry excessive fu try get out. Da bawling, I still got it inna my head,” said Eric Jones, a neighbor of Cattouse, whose home was burnt to the ground as well. “So, besides dat, when we jump ova di fence, I still try fu tek out my stuff, but I neem cahn do anything else. Everything fu me destroy totally,” he added.

As mentioned above, the deceased Cattouse resided alone at his home. This was later confirmed by Jones who mentioned that during his time living at the residence, he had never seen anyone else visit the property.

When Amandala spoke with Kenneth Mortis, Station Supervisor of the National Fire Service, he confirmed that the burnt remains of the deceased were found after 11:30 p.m., moments after the nationwide power outage. Mortis said that Cattouse’s home did not have electricity, that he lit his home with candles, and the lit candles were the source of the fire.

“Last night, he was a little bit more intoxicated than other times. His sense of unawareness combined with fatigue combined with sleep, we believe could have led to his demise. Our investigation was done, and we noticed that his immediate structure didn’t have any electricity. He was using means of a candle,” Mortis said. “The streets are saying that he was physically abused and then locked inside the structure. However, that is just the streets theory. We are leading more closely to the fact that he may have fallen asleep instead, and then that fire started from inside and worked its way up.”

This inferno is similar to the blaze in northern Belize which claimed the life of a Corozal man approximately a week ago, where the deceased was also consuming alcohol, and fell asleep with a lit candle inside his house.

“This is the second one for the year, and I don’t know exactly how much more to emphasize the importance of socializing versus using an open flame. I don’t know; it’s a sad reality that has hit us face-on. That is something that we need to look at and see how we can approach that from a different standpoint,” says Mortis.

Mortis is satisfied with how his team operated; he mentioned that they were not informed of someone being inside the structure when they got the call.

“It’s a tragedy. However, given the circumstances and the proximity to our neighboring building, the outcome couldn’t have been better. We lost one complex with three apartments versus three structures, which would have been more detrimental to the neighborhood at this time,” he said.

As of print time, the National Fire Service has not confirmed Cattouse’s exact cause of death. They are investigating two possible theories – that he died as a result of the fire, or before he was burnt.