Witness under fire in court

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 15/02/2013

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A track worker who told police the man accused of five arsons at the Foxton Racecourse told him he liked to light fires, has denied he invented the claim.

Danny Stamm spent most of yesterday giving evidence at the High Court hearing in Palmerston North of Kelvin Webb. Webb, 36, is accused of starting five fires at the racecourse in November and December 2011.

Mr Stamm told the court that during a conversation with Webb before the first fire was lit, Webb had told him "he liked lighting fires" and he had lit fires in the past.

The conversation took place about a week before the first arson at the racecourse and had been sparked by Mr Stamm, who had seen Webb burning rubbish a few days earlier as part of his job as caretaker at the facility.

Yesterday afternoon, while being cross-examined by defence lawyer Fergus Steedman, Mr Stamm was asked who he told about what Webb said.

Mr Stamm said he had not told anybody about the comment until he was interviewed by Detective Stephen Yates on November 25, 2011.

"I put it to you that you made that up, you invented that to get Detective Yates off your back," Mr Steedman said. Webb denied ever saying to Mr Stamm that he liked to light fires or that he had done so in the past, Mr Steedman said.

Mr Stamm said he was not lying. Webb had been drinking on the night he made the comment, Mr Stamm said, and maybe Webb had not realised he said it.

During the police interview in November 2011, Mr Stamm told Mr Yates that whoever had lit the second fire, which occurred in a stable on November 19, would have had 15 to 20 minutes to get away.

Mr Steedman asked Mr Stamm if this was what he had said.

"No comment," replied Mr Stamm.

Mr Steedman repeated the question. "No," said Mr Stamm.

He then said that he meant the fire looked like it had been burning for about 15 to 20 minutes before he arrived to help take horses from a neighbouring paddock.

"I guess it came out wrong, I think I meant it had been going for at least 20 minutes by the time I got there," Mr Stamm said.

Mr Steedman asked how Mr Stamm could reach such a conclusion and suggested only the arsonist would know how long the fire had been burning.

He asked Mr Stamm if he had started any of the fires and Mr Stamm said he had not.

Mr Stamm will continue in the witness box today.

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- Manawatu Standard

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