AN incendiary phosphorus grenade which ignites and explodes when hurled, emitting fire and intense heat that burns fiercely, was used to destroy banker Doug Munatsi’s home after his immobilisation, ravaging his respiratory system to death, security sources say.
This is based on an ongoing investigation by The NewsHawks, which has spoken to relatives, friends and security sources, as well as government officials, who have shed light on the mysterious and horrific death of the prominent banker who died last week at his Harare penthouse.
Toxicology examinations to assess whether Munatsi was drugged or poisoned before death are still going on, as preliminary pathology tests could not conclude the cause of his death.
Munatsi died early on Monday morning in a “suspicious” fire that broke out in his seven-bedroom luxurious apartment at Northfields in the Avenues area.
Multiple sources, including friends and relatives, say his death was murder and are anxiously awaiting the results of a post-mortem.
Those close to Munatsi say he could have easily escaped the fire if he was fully conscious.
First, his colleagues say the easiest way he could have escaped the fire was through the balcony from where he could have accessed the dining room and lounge, which were not affected by the fire. The dining room and lounge — from where one can see the Harare Sports Club, are next to the kitchen.
A phosphorus grenade, which security sources say might have resulted in his death, produces fierce heat and fire through chemical reaction of a flammable substance. It explodes into an intense fire, inflicts excruciating burns, sometimes to the bone, while causing severe respiratory damage, shock and organ failure.
White phosphorus used in such a grenade can burn people to the bone, smolder inside the body, and reignite, but Munatsi’s body was found in the bathroom out of the fire epicentre.
This suggests he was already killed before the fire or died of respiratory system or organ collapse.
“When you closely examine the scene, the circumstances and consequences, certain things quickly emerge: First, there was commotion, which suggests a fight, second explosion meaning an incendiary device and fire; and call for help instead of an escape, that is immobilisation,” a security source said.
“Then you ask what sort of a weapon was used? The situation suggests a phosphorus grenade. It is portable, easy to hurl and quickly ignites and explodes, causing intense fire and heat that burns metal and human flesh upon impact and contact. The burning in his bedroom shows that.
“He was immobilised, that’s why he didn’t escape from the bedroom. Neighbours heard a voice calling for help via — and not from — the balcony which is logical as it was coming from his bedroom, but he was in the bathroom where was found dead. He couldn’t escape. Why? Immobilised!
“In security circles, we have done thorough analysis of the situation and sequencing of events. This is our conclusion, but we are just giving you a brief summary.”
The sources further say critically, incendiary weapons release carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which can cause poisoning and respiratory or organ failure when inhaled.
They say since Munatsi was not burnt to death when found in the bathroom, he almost certainly died of respiratory and organ failures after he was immobilised by his assailants.
His neighbours say they heard commotion, explosion and later a call for help coming through the balcony from his bedroom, suggesting he was immobilised and was struggling to survive after the attack. The scene was attended to by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Homicide section, CID Studios, CID Scenes of Crime, CID Forensics and ZRP Harare Central Police Station.
The government announced that he will be granted a state-assisted funeral. Pathologists yesterday handed over samples needed for a toxicology examination to the police after preliminary post-mortem examinations on the body did not give conclusive answers as to the cause of death.
Post-mortem results are an important piece in the puzzle to establish what exactly killed him.
According to the security sources, this is what mostly likely happened to Munatsi after the attack.
He might have been killed before the grenade fire or died as a result of respiratory failure, meaning that the fire was meant to destroy and kill everything in its wake in that bedroom.
Inhaling air with high carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and low oxygen content can also alter a person’s mental state. If an attack occurs in an enclosed space, as happened in the Munatsi case, incendiary weapons can quickly raise the temperature enough to cause heat stroke.
The fire was concentrated in the bedroom and was so intense such that “the main bedroom was extensively damaged by fire to the extent that all windows and doors were broken, all the furniture in the bedroom were extensively burnt that only steel frames for the bed and built-in cupboards were observed,” according to a police situation report (sitrep).
Friends and relatives believe an accelerant could have been used, given the intensity of the fire.
“Investigations are still taking place, but the fire was so ferocious and we believe the intensity points to the possibility of an accelerant being used. That’s why the Fire Brigade battled for a long time to control the fire and it’s strange because it’s not like there were many things in the bedroom, it was very spacious,” a friend told The NewsHawks.
“At this point, there are so many things that do not add up. What caused the explosion when the fire started? The explosion was heard by the guard and the owner of the neighbouring penthouse. Was it even him who called out for help when a neighbour asked what was going on, and if it was indeed him, was he fully conscious such that he could escape?
“The shorts he was wearing and the T-shirt were not burnt and his body was intact, which is evidence that he was not exposed to the direct fire although he had burns on his hands, legs and upper lip. It makes no sense why he did not escape unless he was immobilised, drugged or held against his will, like we suspect.”
Munatsi’s family was informed of the tragedy by his chef, Saurosi Marichambo (53), who had reported for duty, only to see the police and Fire Brigade attending the scene.
Marichambo called Munatsi’s young brother, Cardmelon, who rushed to the house with the banker’s two nephews. Munatsi was found dead while in a sitting position in his bathroom after the Fire Brigade, which responded to a distress call from a neighbour, had put out the inferno.
By the time the family arrived, his body was in a sleeping position and was covered by a cloak.