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Charges in a crime that shocked the Hamilton area have been withdrawn after the only witness apparently changed his story.

Kenneth Lynch, 37, was charged last November with arson after a lengthy investigation into a $500,000 fire at the Hindu Samaj Temple in Hamilton days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. The temple was destroyed.

"We are disappointed but we have faith in the work done by the police," Pran Khindri, temple president, said yesterday. "It left a big scar, especially with the young generation."

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Hamilton police said yesterday that after the fire, they interviewed a number of people, including a witness who implicated Mr. Lynch.

However, "there is no physical evidence linking Mr. Lynch to the items recovered by investigators from the scene of the fire," according to a statement read in court yesterday before the charges were withdrawn.

"In addition, with respect to the witness that implicated Mr. Lynch as being responsible for the fire, there are significant issues concerning his credibility . . . without corroboration, there is no reasonable prospect of conviction in this case."

A new temple is expected to open this July. Mr. Khindri estimated its cost at over $1-million. He said all of the sacred statues destroyed in the fire will be replaced.

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