Wattle Flat arson accused says villagers hurt his pets

A 53-YEAR-OLD man who believed people in the Wattle Flat and Sofala communities had hurt his dogs faced Bathurst Local Court yesterday charged with lighting a bushfire just one kilometre north of Wattle Flat village.

Legal Aid solicitor James Taylor, representing accused arsonist Charles Christopher Regan, told registrar Mark Nicholls that his client had moved to Sofala following the break-up of his marriage and death of his mother.

He moved around to various locations before buying a 300-acre property at Sofala, but his hopes of a peaceful and productive life were in vain.

Mr Taylor said Regan’s efforts to make a living failed because wild goats caused him significant problems. 

He said Regan got some dogs to live with him on the farm, but that caused more problems and the dogs have been disappearing. 

“He believes they were harmed by people in the local community,” Mr Taylor said.

“Mr Regan told me that he wants to get out because he is not able to cope with living at Sofala any more. He aims to move into a small rural community.”

Regan was initially granted bail during yesterday’s hearing, before Bathurst police used special provisions under the Bail Act to lodge an appeal after new information came to hand.

Regan was retained in custody and taken to Mudgee Local Court, where he appeared before Magistrate Michael Allen, who refused bail. 

Regan is charged with four counts of intentionally causing a fire and being reckless as to its spread, and one count of damaging property by fire. The offences are alleged to have taken place between January 10 and 11, January 30 and January 31.

During the hearing before Mr Nicholls, Detective Senior Constable Megan Fawkner opposed bail on the basis that there was a strong prosecution case to the extent that the accused had made full admissions to police. 

Detective Senior Constable Fawkner said police have great concern for the safety of the residents of Wattle Flat if the accused is granted bail. 

She also told the court that a significant amount of money had been spent battling the fires, one of which was stopped just short of the village of Wattle Flat.

Detective Senior Constable Fawkner said a minimum of $457,800 was spent on providing air cover by four fixed-wing aircraft and three helicopters, plus a further $18,000 spent on earthmoving equipment. A total of 22 RFS tankers and 70 RFS personnel were also deployed. 

In outlining his decision to grant bail, Mr Nicholls said he was satisfied Regan would attend court for future hearings.

However, police appealed this decision, and under the provisions of the Bail Act, were able to keep Regan in custody while they sought a review of the bail decision, which was granted. 

Regan was subsequently transferred to the nearest sitting local court [Mudgee] to appear before magistrate Allen.

Mr Allen ordered Regan reappear before Bathurst Local Court, via AVL, on March 17, 2014.

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