Australia A man who lit bushfires which threatened houses and lives on Adelaide’s southern fringe in mid-summer has been jailed for 12 years.
Garry John Trestrail, 26, pleaded guilty to charges of causing a bushfire, arson and property damage over fires in January and February 2014.
The blazes threatened suburbs and towns including Morphett Vale, Happy Valley, Onkaparinga Hills, McLaren Flat and Noarlunga Centre, with the District Court hearing that some destroyed farm equipment and other property, and threatened homes and people’s lives.
Judge Barry Beazley said the crimes were malicious and many people suffered, including neighbours in the same street where Trestrail lived.
“Fortunately no-one was physically injured. It is plain however that a large number of victims suffered and still suffer from various psychological issues as a consequence of your criminal conduct,” he said.
“In addition, you caused a whole community to be in fear.”
Judge Beazley said some of the offending was opportunistic, but Trestrail had deliberately targeted an ex-employer’s premises.
“While you did not show any remorse for a long time, you now have some insight into how serious your offending was and how dangerous the consequences may have been,” he said.
“Bushfires and arsons are a constant concern for people living in rural and semi-rural areas. Those residents are never prepared for one of their own to light fires and place their lives and incomes in danger.
“Intentionally lighting fires at the height of the bushfire season clearly exposes a large number of people to danger.”
Trestrail was jailed for 12 years and a non-parole term of seven years set, backdated to when he was taken into custody in February 2014.
Neighbour says jailing eases community fears
Outside court, one of Trestrail’s neighbours Morphett Vale resident Lara Hildebrand, whose garage was set alight while she and her three children were sleeping, expressed relief the matter had been resolved by the courts.
“Three years we’ve been on tenterhooks, we haven’t known what was going to happen … so after three years I can go into this holiday season with my kids and know it’s done, it’s finished,” she said.
She said her family had worked hard to overcome their fear, and neighbours had been a great support to each other.
“It’s impacted on sleep, it’s impacted on trust with people, but he’s a rotten egg, it doesn’t mean everyone is,” she said.
“I still sleep less than five hours a night on average and I wake every few hours because there’s always that risk and it’s a very real possibility, but we don’t dwell on it … I think I’m going to have a very sound sleep tonight.
“It brought our community closer, my neighbourhood looked after each other, my neighbours were amazing, we looked out for each other.
“So while he tore us apart, he also brought us together.”