Racecourse fires 'arson'

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 20/02/2013

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Scene examinations of three Foxton Racecourse fires have confirmed they were acts of arson.

Former racecourse caretaker Kelvin Mark Webb, 36, is on trial in the High Court at Palmerston North facing five charges of arson in relation to fires at the racecourse between November 18 and December 18, 2011.

Justice Jillian Mallon and the jury heard from Fire Service investigator Murray Kidd yesterday. He examined the scene of the November 23 fire, which was the second to break out in racecourse stables and the third in total.

Electrical problems were ruled out as a cause, because the power had been turned off after a previous fire.

The stables were located next to State Highway 1 and half of them were destroyed.

"I established the most likely point of origin of this fire was the west end of the stables," Kidd said.

A plastic bottle was found nearby and it contained traces of flammable liquid.

Kidd also investigated a November 27 fire that broke out in a wood shed near the caretaker's house.

Three fuel patches in grass areas, a set of keys and a plastic container and spout containing traces of flammable liquid were found at the scene.

Power had been on at the shed but electrical problems were ruled out as a cause of the fire, as they were in the final fire on December 18 at another set of stables.

Kidd said empty DB and Heineken beer cans were found near that scene.

All three fires appeared to have been deliberately lit. Kidd was unable to say exactly what accelerant was used to ignite the fires.

Defence lawyer Fergus Steedman said he accepted that the fires were acts of arson.

"Five fires in a month really speaks for itself."

The defence says that somebody else is the arsonist, possibly former track rider Danny Stamm.

The trial continues.

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- Manawatu Standard

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