The owner of Hansen’s Hotel, which burnt down in a fire on May 1, is standing at a standstill and frustrated that while a suspect has been identified, charges have yet to be laid in the case that’s been deemed an arson.
“I never want anyone to go through a fire. You just don’t realize how much hurt there is, how much stress there is,” said Lynette Hansen, adding she has yet to see a penny out of insurance, but has paid for cleanup costs and other costs associated with recent upgrades to the business. “We’re paying a mortgage for a hotel that hasn’t been there for six months,” she complained. “I’m so frustrated with everything. It’s unbelievable.”
She hopes that once charges are laid, it will be possible to move forward with life, collecting insurance and then rebuilding the hotel.
Terry Senecal, St. Paul’s fire chief, confirmed that he, along with the provincial fire investigator, found within one or two days of investigating the fire that it might have been suspicious in nature.
“The minute we see something that’s unusual, we have to bring in the RCMP, which we did,” he said.
While RCMP have questioned a suspect, investigator in the case, Const. Paul Britton, declined to name the suspect or give a timeline for how long it would take to press charges. “We want to make sure the investigation is done as thoroughly as possible,” he said, adding it’s a major investigation, with the arson involving a $2 million building. It’s not that the RCMP doesn’t have enough evidence to press charges, but they’d like to ensure all their bases are covered, he said. “We want to make sure we get a conviction.”
Hansen is still struggling to understand the reason for the delay. According to her, it was only shortly after the fire that police told her not to contact the suspect they had identified.
“I worked so hard to get where I am today,” she said, adding she can’t believe someone would destroy it all. Even now, she finds it difficult to look at pictures of the hotel that she’d put so much time and money into, or pictures of the blaze that ultimately consumed it.
Hansen says she doesn’t know what else she can do to press for action, having already talked to the RCMP and to Const. Britton a number of times to question why charges have yet to be laid.
“I don’t know what else to do,” she said. “My hands are tied.”