Arsonist to stay in prison
The security guard who lit a string of fires in Feilding, the town he was supposed to be protecting, will stay in jail for at least another year.
Richard David Elliott, 28, is serving a seven-year jail sentence and didn't seek an early release when he met with the Parole Board this month. It was his first meeting with the board, as he has now served a third of his sentence.
A parole report released to the Manawatu Standard yesterday said "he would pose an undue risk to the safety of the community if released at this stage".
Between January and June 2011 he lit six fires throughout Feilding. One destroyed the Feilding Baptist Church community centre on Bowen St and another the Manchester Square building occupied by Rome hairdressers and a beauty salon.
Elliott was then working for ADT Armourguard and one of the Palmerston North man's tasks was to patrol Feilding CBD on foot between 9pm and 3am every night. The service was organised by Feilding Promotion and paid for by the town's businesses.
Allen Hince was pastor of the church when it burned down but reached out to Elliott in prison, visiting him regularly and offering him solace.
The pair are now in regular contact, by letter if not always face-to-face, and Elliott sent Mr Hince his first Christmas card of the year.
Mr Hince said he didn't want to judge if Elliott was ready for release from jail, but the inmate had acknowledged his wrongdoing.
He did, however, have to serve his time.
"I get on well with him and I think he certainly has changed considerably from when I first met him and when he hadn't long been arrested after the fires."
Rome owner Wendy Hawkins said her business and the Attention to Beauty salon recently had a "phoenix celebration" after occupying their new building - erected on the same site as their old one - for a year.
Mrs Hawkins was pleased Elliott would remain behind bars.
"We've all suffered a lot of consequences for what he's done. It's only fair he suffers some consequences. It's been a big long haul for us and it's changed all our lives. We've suffered a lot."
"It would be really good if he could be rehabilitated and hopefully it could change his life and get him to have a different outlook on life."
The parole report says one of Elliott's motivations for lighting the fires was to seek revenge against his boss.
Mrs Hawkins was unimpressed she and other victims were caught up in those problems. "We did nothing to him."
When Elliott burned her building, he thought of killing himself there. So, Mrs Hawkins said, their new building had been cleansed to remove negative energy.
The Parole Board said it was "puzzling" that Elliott committed such serious first offences "more or less out of the blue".
Elliott had mentioned his suicidal thoughts, but was now "in better shape, from that point of view".
He is said to be doing well in prison and working on a farm.
The board supported his decision to delay entry into the drug treatment unit so he could continue that work and learn new skills. The board will meet with Elliott again late next year.