Irate man torched Okaiawa house

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014

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A man who burned down his rented house after a domestic dispute will be sentenced next month.

At his appearance in the Hawera District Court yesterday, Chris David Gurney, 23, pleaded guilty to charges of arson, wilful damage and assaulting a female.

The charges relate to an incident on June 22 at Gurney's former rented home on Katotauru Rd in Okaiawa.

According to the police summary of facts, Gurney was at the house with his partner and 3-year-old son.

About 4pm,the pair began to argue when the victim packed up her belongings, following her decision to leave the defendant.

Gurney punched a television in the lounge, causing the screen to crack. The victim yelled at him and a physical fight broke out between the two.

The victim struck Gurney, who then picked up and threw a two-seater sofa at her and spat at her face.

Gurney left the house and went to the shed, picked up a stereo speaker and threw it into one of the windows of the house, smashing it.

He then smashed all the windows in the house with a spade before leaving in his car.

The victim called police and family members and then left the scene.

After Gurney left he continued to send abusive and threatening texts to the victim before returning to the house sometime between 7.20pm and 8pm.

Gurney set fire to the curtains in the house using a lighter.

After waiting until the curtains were fully alight, he set fire to mattresses in the bedrooms and also attempted to burn the couch.

He placed a mink blanket on top of the stove and turned all of the elements on before he left.

Gurney was seen leaving the property by several witnesses.

By the time emergency services arrived, the fire was well involved.

Four fire engines attended the blaze, two from Hawera and one each from Okaiawa and Manaia.

It took 18 firefighters an hour to bring the fire under control.

Water tankers from Hawera and Eltham were also used.

The property, which belonged to the owner of the farm, was gutted.

Gurney was arrested in Stratford shortly after setting the fire.

Lawyer Julian Hannam said no bail application would be made for his client, who was in custody.

"He's well aware of what's going to happen," Hannam said.

Judge Allan Roberts convicted Gurney on all three charges and remanded him for sentencing on August 12.

He requested a pre-sentence report be prepared.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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