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Wicked Campers worker guilty of arson

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 15:34 13/02/2013

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A woman broke down in tears after a jury found her son guilty of causing more than $200,000 damage with the arson of Christchurch's Wicked Campers premises.

Anthony Dobson, 36, was employed in the company's office.

The jury also found him guilty of theft by failing to deal as instructed with payments to Wicked Campers, as well as the arson on July 6, 2010.

Dobson's mother began crying as the jury returned its verdicts after about three and a half hours of deliberations. She left the court, but returned to see him remanded for sentence.

Crown prosecutor Deirdre Elsmore alleged in the seven-day Christchurch District Court trial that Dobson had set fire to the Allen St premises in the central city after his employer found out that more than $3000 had not been banked.

After the verdicts, Elsmore told Judge David Saunders that the damage to the building and its contents amounted to well over $200,000.

Judge Saunders said he believed the $20,000 damage for the contents could be a realistic figure for reparations, but the value of the building would be well beyond Dobson's means.

The Crown alleged that Dobson lit fires in his office and another in the laundry area before he left the building that night. The office and depot were engulfed in flames.

Defence counsel Lee-Lee Heah said the Crown could not prove that Dobson had stolen the cash, and the fire experts could not rule out an accidental cause.

Heah applied for bail for Dobson pending sentencing so that he could wind up his affairs, resign from his job and have as much contact as possible with his children before he served his sentence.

But Judge Saunders refused to grant bail pending sentencing on March 21.

He told Heah: "I appreciate there are personal circumstances you have raised but the reality is that he is now facing a significant custodial sentence. I am not prepared to grant bail."

The judge did not ask for reports on Dobson's ability to pay reparations or his suitability for home detention.

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