Man remanded over Maffra fire

Bryce Eishold

A MAFFRA man has been remanded in custody after being charged with a fire that destroyed Anderson’s Removals warehouse at Maffra on Monday last week.

Donovan James Finn, 45, faced Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court on Thursday where it was revealed the fire had caused $2 million in damage, the court heard.

Finn faces several charges ranging from arson, theft, trespass and possessing a drug of dependence after allegedly being caught with cannabis.

Wellington Crime Investigation Unit Detective Sergeant Mark Rossiter told the xcourt the accused allegedly forced entry to the warehouse on Malmo St, Maffra, about 1.20am on Monday.

The court heard Finn allegedly stole items including fuel cards, truck and storage container keys, a drill and charger, three commercial rolls of toilet paper and a framed racing car print from the office.

He also allegedly stole documents, which he later requested his partner to burn in an incinerator, and a white hard drive which was dropped in the driveway of the warehouse site during the incident.

“[The accused] put items in the vehicle and set fire to the warehouse by igniting available materials before leaving,” Detective Sergeant Rossiter told the court.

“The entire warehouse was destroyed … and contained household goods and personal items for approximately 30 customers. It’s estimated that the damaged caused … is in excess of $2 million.”

Police told the court the accused was seen driving a dark Nissan sedan registered to his partner on CCTV from a neighbouring property following the fire.

A fuel card stolen from the facility was later located by a member of the public on street in Maffra near where the accused was living.

“Amongst the fuel cards was a Commonwealth Bank card in the name of the accused,” Detective Sergeant Rossiter told the court.

Police executed a search warrant on a house in Maffra on Wednesday where items stolen from the warehouse, including the racing car print was found.

In an interview with police, Finn denied his involvement with the fire and said he was not driving as he does not have a licence and suffers from epilepsy.

The prosecution argued Finn would be an unacceptable risk if he was granted bail, given he could endanger the safety and welfare of witnesses and pervert the course of justice.

The court also heard he would be a flight risk given his wife and son were living interstate, and because he had 11 prior convictions for failing to answer bail and two outstanding warrants in Queensland dating back to 1994.

Finn was represented by Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service who argued his prior convictions dated back more than two decades and dismissed he would be a flight risk.

Magistrate Rodney Higgins said the fire “has had a huge impact on the local community of Maffra” and “while he has no prior [convictions] for arson, he does have many priors for burglaries”.

Magistrate Higgins said given “the strength of the case” and “seriousness of the fire”, along with the impact it’s had on the community, Finn would be remanded in custody, and face Sale Magistrates’ Court in October.