House fire
House fire

Garage fire lit after seven hours drinking

A MAN who set fire to his garage in January had been drinking for seven hours before and had been spiralling downwards since his brother’s death in 2017.

Christopher Robin Turland, 61, pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court on Friday to one count of arson.

Emergency services were called to his Yearsley Gove, Pacific Heights home, about 10pm on January 12.

Defence lawyer Grant Cagney said Turland’s brother had died at the age of 67, leaving Turland to deal with his mortality and feeling his days were numbered.

He said Turland started drinking excessively.

Mr Cagney said his client, who had immigrated from the United Kingdom to Australia in 2002, had been drinking since 2pm that day and last recalled cooking chicken skewers.

“It was an attempted suicide,” he said. “He had taken his favourite dog, Coco, to his neighbour.”

Mr Cagney said Turland had expressed to police his desire to die, thinking his wife of 25 years had left him.

He said Turland’s wife, Julie, had taken their 24-year-old disabled son somewhere else for the night due to Turland’s drinking.

The court heard Turland had rung his step daughter between 7-7.30pm and told her he was going to burn the house down and then took the dog to the neighbour across the road who followed him home, but not quick enough to stop him igniting a fire which caused the garage to explode and be engulfed in flames about 9pm.

The neighbour’s wife called emergency services while her husband helped Turland try to extinguish the fire.

Judge Paul Smith said it was fortunate the whole house wasn’t destroyed.

Turland was diagnosed with severe depression after the fire and is now medicated.

The mechanic was sentenced to 2.5 years prison, suspended after 93 days (declared presentence custody) and operational for three years.