A 40-year-old man has been found not guilty of deliberately setting fire to a house in North Vancouver where a woman had fled to escape his unwanted attention.
Yakup Cetin was found not guilty March 10 in B.C. Supreme Court of two counts of arson on charges alleging he used gas to set fire to a doorway of a house on Mowat Place in North Vancouver, as well as torching a vehicle parked in the driveway.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Tammen said while evidence pointed to the likelihood Cetin did set the fire, there were enough questions about it to provide reasonable doubt of his guilt.
Tammen did find Cetin guilty of criminal harassment of the woman, as well as a charge of attempting to break into her apartment in downtown Vancouver, threatening one of her friends, mischief and several counts of breaching previous court orders, including orders to stay away from the woman he was harassing.
In handing down his decision, Tammen described Cetin’s “fixation … perhaps obsession” with a woman who lived in the apartment building where he was a maintenance employee.
During repairs to the woman’s suite, Cetin extended several social invitations and also left flowers and Turkish sweets outside her apartment, said Tammen. But the woman made it clear she wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship, Tammen added.
Shortly afterwards, the woman began getting hang-up phone calls late at night in which nobody would talk.
The judge described one incident in March 2021, when the woman had friends over to her apartment. After one male friend who lived across the hall answered one of the hang-up calls, Cetin knocked on the door of the woman’s apartment a short time later. Her neighbour then received a phone call from Cetin who screamed at him and “threatened to kill him,” telling the neighbour that the woman was “his princess,” said Tammen. The woman called police.
Cetin used the same term in emails he later sent to the woman under the name “grey wolf”, expressing his “abiding love” for her.
In one of the emails, Cetin told the woman “I hope you will understand me one day before it’s too late for some things.” He also wrote “I will burn the world from now on …You will watch our doom with your eyes.”
The messages frightened and upset the woman, and made her fear for her safety, said the judge.
“The accused appeared to be obsessed,” said Tammen, “claiming to love her despite barely knowing her.” He was also “undeterred by court orders” banning him from contacting the victim.
The Crown’s alleged Cetin escalated his harassment on Sept. 3, 2021, travelling to the neighbourhood in North Vancouver where the woman’s mother lived. At the time, she was staying with her mother due to concerns about being stalked by Cetin. The Crown alleged Cetin then doused a doormat outside the front entrance to the house with gas and set it on fire, as well as setting another fire beneath rear bumper of an SUV parked in the driveway.
Two days later, Cetin was captured on a video camera set up by the victim's neighbour, trying unsuccessfully to break into her downtown apartment, the court heard. That same night, Cetin returned to North Vancouver and was captured on video carrying what the Crown described as likely a bag of sugar which the prosecutor alleged Cetin poured into the gas tank of a truck belonging to a security guard the family had hired after the arsons. A charge of mischief connected to that incident was later dropped by the Crown.
The judge summarized the evidence linking Cetin to the fires as circumstantial, including video footage of varying quality from houses in the North Vancouver neighbourhood where the fires were set and from taxi that picked Cetin up downtown around 1 a.m. on the day of the second incident, dropping him within two blocks of the woman’s mother’s home in North Vancouver.
Cetin’s computer, seized by police under a search warrant, showed Google searches for the North Vancouver address and for taxis in North Vancouver. Cetin also texted a friend on the day the fires were set and told him he was going to take matters “to the second step.”
Cetin denied setting the fires, telling the judge he went to visit a friend in North Vancouver that day.
In handing down his decision, the judge said distinctive clothing Cetin was wearing including a large “wolf” ring, both on video captured outside the woman’s apartment and on surveillance video near the woman’s mother’s North Vancouver home, convinced him Cetin had been to the area on the second day, when the truck’s gas tank was tampered with.
But while the judge said he was “highly suspicious” that Cetin set the earlier fires, he said discrepancies in the captured video left room for reasonable doubt.
Tammen said he was accordingly required to find Cetin not guilty of the arsons.
Cetin will be sentenced on charges of criminal harassment, attempted break and enter, threatening and eight breaches of court orders March 24.