HOTEL FIRE TRIAL
Former Premier Hotel licensee Graeme Cooper could go to trial later this year after officially pleading not guilty to charges of arson and fraud over a blaze which destroyed the historic pub.
The former licensee of Albany’s historic Premier Hotel — who is accused of burning down the building as part of a multimilliondollar insurance scam — has officially pleaded not guilty to charges of arson and fraud.
Graeme Cooper, 34, appeared via video link from Hakea Prison yesterday to deny the charges stemming from the blaze last year.
Mr Cooper also denied he had made a false statement to police about the fire, which he had claimed was part of a robbery of the premises.
Max Saupin, Mr Cooper’s lawyer, said yesterday he was staunchly maintaining his not guilty pleas, and the eight-day trial was provisionally set for January next year, to be held in Albany. However, that date could be brought forward if witnesses are available in October.
Justice Stephen Hall said in his opinion it was important the trial was held in Albany.
Dr Saupin also said Mr Cooper intended to bring expert evidence about the insurance policy that covered the hotel, and also intended to point to evidence about his plans for the hotel, and the cash outlay he had already made as part of his running of the pub.
Following the incident, Mr Cooper told police two men wearing disguises had confronted him in the early hours of May 13, 2016 before allegedly stealing money from the safe and setting the building alight.
After detectives released composite images and CCTV footage of the moment of the alleged attack, they then arrested two men, before arresting Cooper himself, and then two more alleged accomplices.
The blaze caused up to $2 million damage, with police originally alleging it had endangered the lives of four people inside at the time.
But those charges against Mr Cooper were officially dropped by prosecutors yesterday. He will reappear in court again in August.
Premier Hotel’s former licensee Graeme Cooper surveys the fire damage last year.