AR­SON AP­PEAL EX­TIN­GUISHED

Yuleba house fire ar­son­ist to re­main in jail

The Western Star - - FRONT PAGE - John Weekes John.Weekes@news­re­gional­me­dia.com.au

A MID­DLE-AGED mum who paid a mys­tery man to torch her house had an ap­peal against her jail term ex­tin­guished.

Eu­nice Bri­ones was charged with set­ting fire to the house in Yuleba, east of Roma, and try­ing to dis­hon­estly get in­surance money.

Af­ter a Roma District Court trial, she was found guilty on each charge and given three and a half years’ jail.

Al­though four wit­nesses gave ev­i­dence the house was de­lib­er­ately torched, Bri­ones ap­pealed against her con­vic­tions and wanted to ap­peal against her sen­tences.

In a new Court of Ap­peal judg­ment, Jus­tice Philip McMurdo said Bri­ones was 50 when the fire broke out in March 2014.

Jus­tice McMurdo said some­one liv­ing in the same street as Bri­ones “smelt fuel and no­ticed the light of the fire, com­ing through a win­dow”.

“She saw a man run­ning fast to a car which was then driven to the cor­ner of the street where it stopped.

“The wit­ness said there was then a ‘big bang’ from the house, be­fore the car drove away and a sec­ond bang oc­curred.”

Bri­ones was born in the Philip­pines and a friend said she planned to buy a prop­erty in that coun­try with her adult chil­dren.

She bought the Yuleba house in 2011 for $65,000, in­sur­ing it for $350,000.

In 2014, she in­creased the house in­surance to $400,000 and more than dou­bled con­tents in­surance to $50,000. Prose­cu­tors claimed Bri­ones paid thou­sands of dol­lars to a man named Ali Mahdi Hameed to torch the house.

On 9 April, 2014, a per­son of that name left Aus­tralia from Perth, re­turn­ing a fort­night later.

But in a police in­ter­view four months later, Bri­ones said she did not know where Hameed was or how to con­tact him.

Af­ter the blaze, police found sen­ti­men­tal items, in­clud­ing hun­dreds of photos, in Bri­ones’ car.

Her ci­ti­zen­ship pa­pers were there, too.

But Bri­ones ar­gued there was no ev­i­dence of an ar­son­ist.

She ad­vanced other ar­gu­ments, say­ing she was not in fi­nan­cial trou­ble.

“She says... she was in­tend­ing to buy prop­erty over­seas, but with a per­sonal loan and money from her son and her brother,” Jus­tice McMurdo said.

He found none of Bri­ones’ ar­gu­ments per­sua­sive.

“This was a strong cir­cum­stan­tial case, (she) pro­cured the man called Hameed to set fire to her house. If the ar­son charge was proved, the at­tempted fraud was also proved.”

Jus­tice Wal­ter Sofronoff and Jus­tice James Dou­glas agreed. The ap­peal was dis­missed.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

UP IN FLAMES: Eu­nice Bri­ones was jailed af­ter be­ing ac­cused of ar­rang­ing the fire and claim­ing in­surance money.

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