Costly fires lead to separate arson charges

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014
St Philomena's Church splash
ROBERT CHARLES
St Philomena's Church blaze.

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Two suspected arsonists allegedly responsible for millions of dollars in damage appeared in court in New Plymouth yesterday.

In the unrelated incidents, a woman and a man have both been charged with arson following the destruction of St Philomena's Church in Brooklands on January 6 and extensive damage to Carefirst medical centre in Westown on January 8.

In the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, a 59-year-old woman appeared for the first time after being arrested for the arson of the church.

The woman's lawyer, Jo Woodcock, asked Judge Max Courtney for a remand for her client so a mentally impaired person's psychiatric report could be completed.

She asked that her client be given name suppression.

Publicity had already put the vulnerable woman at risk. She was well known in the community and had been the victim of abusive comments, the lawyer said.

The defendant also asked the judge to read a letter she had written to him, Ms Woodcock said.

Judge Courtney ordered interim name suppression until he received the psychiatric reports, when he would decide if a permanent court order would be made.

The defendant was remanded on bail to reappear on March 20.

Meanwhile, Sandy Teika Fredrick Hauwaho, 27, has pleaded guilty to setting fire to the medical centre.

The court heard that a psychiatric report ordered at his first appearance found he had psychological issues but was fit to plead.

The police investigation found that Hauwaho had poured petrol on the airconditioning unit at the medical centre because his cousin threatened to evict him after suspecting he had taken $25 from her bank account when using her cashflow card.

She had told Hauwaho, who told her he hadn't used the card, to withdraw the money at Carefirst.

She told him that she would check the CCTV footage at Carefirst to find out who was responsible and if it was him she would evict him.

At 3am Hauwaho was awake after smoking synthetic cannabis. He took a petrol can and walked to Carefirst. He poured the petrol on to an airconditioning unit outside the building and set fire to it.

He came back to put it out but by then the fire had taken hold.

A member of the public saw the fire and called emergency services.

Hauwaho later told police that he set fire to the building because he feared he would be evicted and had nowhere else to live.

Judge Courtney remanded him in custody for a pre-sentence and psychological report prior to sentencing on April 11.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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