Alleged arsonist remanded in custody

A LIMESTONE Coast man who allegedly lit four scrub and grass fires near Kingston last week will remain in a mental health facility until his next court appearance in May.

The 79-year-old man, who was absent from yesterday’s sitting at the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court, was charged with four counts of intentionally causing a bush fire.

The defendant’s lawyer successfully argued the man’s identity should be suppressed due to Australia’s current “volatile climate”, adding he would receive “significant community backlash” if named.

Police alleged the man was involved in lighting a fire on December 30 and January 2 respectively near Catherine Gibson Way, Rosetown.

Police also allege on January 4, the man lit two fires on First Street and Eleventh Street in Rosetown.

The forecast across those three days reached a maximum of 35.1, 23.3 and 18.3 degrees respectively.

The defendant’s lawyer revealed the man was still awaiting a psychiatric report yesterday and that his client had previously been diagnosed with mental health conditions.

“It is my understanding he did not know why the police were at the hospital, he believes it is 2013,” he said.

“He thought they were there to help him get back to his car.

“He thought he was still in Kingston, not Mount Gambier.”

The Magistrate granted the defendant an “appropriate form of custody”, which was explained as either James Nash House or a similar institution with a focus on mental health.

The man is scheduled to appear in court again on May 19 for sentencing.

No property was damaged during the fires, however police said a house was under threat during the January 4 fires.

Police said the charges did not relate and were not connected to the Keilira fire, which started burning in a nearby area on January 30.

Following investigations undertaken by the Country Fire Service and police fire cause investigators, the cause of the Keilira fire has been attributed to lightning strikes.

Anyone with information about the intentional lighting of fires in the Kingston area is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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