A 72-year-old man has been found guilty of five counts of arson for lighting a series of fires in the Tapawera area between February and April last year.
Colin Geoffrey Hayball, who lives alone and without electricity in the Tutaki valley near Murchison, faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
His name was suppressed during the trial, but that has now been lifted.
Closing statements were read on the fifth day of the trial at Nelson today, before Justice Simon France summarised the Crown and defence cases.
Prosecutor Mark O'Donoghue had called more than 40 witnesses before concluding the Crown's case.
The Crown’s case was based on circumstantial evidence, but Justice France told the jury that should not detract from the physical evidence, and witness sightings, which prosecutor Mark O’Donoghue said placed the accused at some of the fire scenes.
Defending himself, Hayball contended that he never lit any forest fires, and had no reason to do so.
The jury, who were directed to deliberate and return with a unanimous verdict on each of the five arson charges, took just three hours to find Hayball guilty on all counts.
- © Fairfax NZ News