Black Saturday arson hearing set

Black Saturday arson hearing set

14 August 2010

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Australia — A committal hearing for two boys accused of lighting the deadly Black Saturday blaze in Bendigo will begin on November 29 this year.

About 40 people are expected to give evidence at the hearing, which is expected to run over three weeks.

The accused boys, aged 14 and 15, were arrested by Taskforce Phoenix detectives in February this year, just five days before the first anniversary of the fires.

They are each facing more than 150 charges, including single counts of arson causing death, deliberately lighting a bushfire, lighting fire on a total fire ban day and lighting fire in a country area during extreme weather conditions.

They are also charged with multiple counts of criminal damage by fire (arson) and using a telecommunications service to menace, harass and offend.

The committal hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to convict the two boys of the charges.

Bendigo resident Mick Kane died when fire ripped through his Long Gully home on Black Saturday.

More than 350 hectares of land, 61 houses and 125 sheds and outbuildings were also destroyed in the fires.

Court documents viewed by the Bendigo Advertiser in February revealed that more than half the properties that were damaged or destroyed were valued at $100,000 or more.

During a bail application in Melbourne for the older teen, the court heard the youths blamed each other.

A detective from bushfire Taskforce Phoenix said witnesses had seen the boys heading into deeper bushland in Maiden Gully about 3.15pm on Black Saturday.

He said they allegedly lit a fire in a dry creek bed near Bracewell Street at 4.20pm.

The court heard one of the teenagers had made partial admissions to lighting the fire.

The boys’ names or any details that might identify them cannot be published because of their age.

They are currently on bail.

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