Man jailed after wife’s lucky escape from major fire

A company director who started a massive factory fire that spread to neighbouring businesses, causing $5.5 million worth of damage, has been jailed for eight years.

Scott Gregory Stirling, 41, set fire to the factory while his unsuspecting wife was in the building, leaving only seconds to get her out, Crown prosecutor Brendan White told Brisbane District Court.

Mr White said Stirling's financially-motivated, premeditated arson showed "a shockingly selfish and callous disregard for the safety of others".

On Friday, a jury found Stirling guilty of the arson of his wife's business, All Bumpers and Headlights in Pritchard Rd, Virginia, which he managed, on September 24, 2017.

He also was found guilty of four counts of endangering a property by fire.

Mr White said Stirling endangered the life of his wife Amanda, with whom he has been married for 10 years.

Scott Stirling outside the Supreme court in Brisbane. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle
Scott Stirling outside the Supreme court in Brisbane. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle

He said although the couple left the building together, after fumbling to find keys to unlock it, the margin for error was just seconds.

A CCTV camera was obscured with smoke within 25 seconds of them getting out of the burning factory, which had a large amount of combustible plastic material.

The blaze caused more than $3 million worth of damage to All Bumpers and Headlights, and about $1.5 million damage to four surrounding businesses.

People and animals had to be evacuated from a neighbouring pet centre, which had a $653,000 loss and Officeworks Virginia lost $17,000 worth of stock and $1.5 million worth of revenue, the court heard.

More than 107 firefighters and 24 fire trucks were called to the Pritchard Rd business after plumes of black smoke were seen billowing across the city, the court heard.

Throughout the five-day trial, prosecutor Brendan White alleged Stirling set fire to the business because the car repair business was facing severe financial hardship.

The court heard the business was $570,000 in debt, including $200,000 which was owed to the Australian Taxation Office.

The fire near Sandgate Rd in Virginia. Pic: Richard Waugh
The fire near Sandgate Rd in Virginia. Pic: Richard Waugh

Stirling had no previous convictions and had made admissions to some facts during the trial, which Judge Ray Rinaudo took into consideration during sentencing.

A fraud charge was dropped at the start of the trial.

Judge Rinaudo sentenced Stirling to eight years' jail for the arson and three years' jail for each of the other charges, to be served concurrently.

"The community needs to be fully aware that arson is an offence which causes significant issues in the community, not only in respect of the possibility for endangering lives, but also the need for firefighters, in your case substantial firefighters, to come to fight the fire and the damage that is caused," Judge Rinaudo said.

He ordered that Stirling be eligible for parole on May 1, 2024, after he has served three and a half years behind bars.

Thirteen days in custody was counted as time already served on his eight-year sentence.

 

Originally published as Man jailed after wife's lucky escape from major fire



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