HARARE, Zimbabwe — Forensic investigations have found no evidence that explosives or inflammable liquids were used in the house-fire death of a powerful general whose family believes he may have been murdered, Zimbabwean state attorneys said Monday.
Retired Gen. Solomon Mujuru, the husband of Vice President Joice Mujuru, was burned beyond recognition in a bedroom fire at his farmhouse outside Harare last year.
Opening the inquest in Harare, state attorney Clemence Chimbari said DNA tests had proved the remains were Mujuru's. Other samples from the scene were tested by forensic experts in South Africa.
For the first time at a state funeral, the general's coffin was sealed and mourners could not participate in the traditional viewing of the remains.
Mujuru's death intensified infighting in the party of President Robert Mugabe, where the general was a powerful figure who used his military, political and business connections to promote his wife's battle for supremacy.
Chimbari said the state power utility will testify that an electrical fault did not cause the fire.
First reports said a candle may have tilted over accidentally during a power outage, a common event in Zimbabwe. But the intensity of the blaze that virtually cremated the general's body led to accusations that gasoline, chemicals or explosive devices may have been used.
Joice Mujuru attended the opening of the inquest dressed in black. She has hired private attorneys to question witnesses called by the state and to examine forensic reports. Soon after Mujuru's death at age 66, she told mourners she could not understand why the former army commander and veteran guerrilla leader did not escape from the fire which left parts of the house and some furniture intact.
The farmhouse of brick and stone has a fire-resistant roof and large windows and exit doors.
A security guard at the property, Clement Runhare, said Monday he heard what sounded like gunfire two hours before he was alerted that a fire had broken out. He said he thought poachers nearby were responsible.
He said the general drove through the entrance gate to the farm with a passenger in his car who he could not identify. No other human remains were found after farm workers and neighbors converged on the house to try and put out the flames.
He said a police protection detail did not have mobile phones to call the fire department and their police radio was broken.
On his way home to the farm 60 kilometers (35 miles) southwest of Harare on Aug. 15, Mujuru stopped at a local hotel bar and drank at least two double whiskies, hotel patron Tongai Chimuka told presiding magistrate Walter Chikwanha. Widely known as a heavy drinker, the general was "in a jovial mood and was not drunk," Chimuka said.
More than 40 witnesses have been summoned to testify at the hearing expected to last at least a week and rule later on whether Mujuru's death was accidental.