Europe

Mata Hari's Netherlands birthplace destroyed in fire

Firefighters tackle the blaze in Leeuwarden, Netherlands (19 Oct 2013)
Image caption Five buildings were totally destroyed by the town centre fire

The house in the Netherlands in which exotic dancer and WWI spy Mata Hari was born has been destroyed in a fire.

One person was killed by the fire on Saturday evening as it engulfed several buildings in Leeuwarden, about 140km (87 miles) north of Amsterdam.

Local media said the victim was thought to be a 24-year-old man who had lived in a flat in the buildings.

Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in August 1876, to a shopkeeper and a Javanese mother.

Image caption Mata Hari was executed by firing squad in 1917

In the early 1900s she left her husband and travelled to Paris where she found fame as an exotic dancer. Her work brought her into contact with many high society society figures.

But she was arrested by France during WWI, accused of being a spy for Germany.

She was executed by firing squad in 1917 after a short trial, though her guilt has long been disputed.

Several films have been made about Mata Hari's life, most famously in 1931 where she was played by Greta Garbo.

NOS TV said dozens of people had had to abandon their homes in the town centre building because of the fire, which started in one of the shops.

Fifteen homes and businesses were affected, said the channel, five of which were totally destroyed.