Jury finds Foxton arson charges proven

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 26/02/2013

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Foxton Racecourse's former caretaker yelled his innocence from the dock after being found guilty of a string of arson attacks at the course.

After five hours' deliberation, the 11-member jury in the trial of Kelvin Mark Webb, 36, yesterday returned unanimous guilty verdicts on four charges of arson.

Webb, who was also acquitted on a further arson charge, yelled from the dock at the High Court in Palmerston North. "You've got it wrong.

"I didn't do it, your honour."

His father Allan, who watched the whole trial, said: "We're very surprised at the verdict."

Justice Jillian Mallon remanded Webb in custody for sentencing in April and ordered a reparation report be prepared.

At the time of Webb's arrest in December 2011 it was thought the fires could have caused up to $3 million damage. The jury found Webb set fire to a block of stables about 10.40pm on November 19, 2011.

"The block of 24 stables was completely destroyed by the fire, along with the property of various horse trainers," Crown prosecutor Andrea Read said in her opening statement to the jury.

Four days later Webb again set fire to a block of stables, destroying 13 out of 24 stables and more trainers' equipment.

Early on November 27, 2011, he set fire to a caretaker's shed, and finally on December 18, 2011, he set fire to another block of stables. This time 15 of the 30 stables were destroyed.

Webb was acquitted of lighting a fire at the Foxton Racecourse grandstand on November 18, 2011.

At the time of the fires Webb was the racecourse's caretaker. He was working there as part of his ACC rehabilitation from a head injury.

The Crown said Webb's reactions to the fires were "odd" and that he had lied about his whereabouts.

The defence said someone else was the arsonist, possibly track rider Danny Stamm.

As he left court yesterday Webb yelled: "Danny Stamm's walking around lighting fires. You don't give a s..."

Away from court, defence lawyer Fergus Steedman said he would have to get through sentencing before he could think about whether to file an appeal.

"All I can say at this stage is that my instructions remain completely unchanged," he said.

"I don't think anyone saw a split verdict coming. It took me a while to get my head around it."

Horse trainer Jack Scott told the Manawatu Standard when Webb was arrested that he lost about $5000 worth of gear in one of the stable blazes.

"I got on with him pretty well until he burnt my end [of the stables] down.

"I lost a heap of stuff," he said. "I don't think anybody's upset him to do these fires, I can't understand it."

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Justice Mallon spent about 75 minutes summing up the 11-day trial for the jury yesterday morning.

She reminded them to disregard any opinions witnesses gave about Webb or any other aspect of the arsons.

"The views some expressed may have been based on rumours and speculation."

The judge told the jury not to read anything into the fact that Webb didn't give evidence. The defence did not have to prove Mr Stamm could have been the arsonist, it was merely raising him as an alternative suspect.

- Manawatu Standard

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