Rozelle store owner Adeel Khan arrested over blast that killed three people

More to come, the store owner has been arrested in explosion that killed 3.
September 23, 2014 – 9:57AM

Facing three murder charges: Adeel Khan.

Facing three murder charges: Adeel Khan. Photo: Supplied

The owner of a Rozelle convenience store that was destroyed by fire that killed three people has been arrested at his hospital bed.

Adeel Khan is expected to charged with three counts of murder in relation to the blast and subsequent fire earlier this month, polices sources.

Bianka O’Brien, 31, her baby son Jude and their neighbour Chris Noble, 27, all died in the Darling Street fire.

Mon 8 Sep 2014,

The father and husband of two victims of a shop explosion in Sydney last week says he is devastated by the loss of his wife and their 12-month-old son, who “made everyone smile”.

The NSW Police Arson Squad is leading a criminal investigation into the Rozelle blast and fire on Thursday that killed Bianka O’Brien, 31, and her son, Jude, along with 27-year-old Chris Noble.

John O’Brien described his wife of eight years as “an inspiration to all who knew her”, saying she was a wonderful wife and an even better mother.

He said people gravitated towards her because of her “beautiful and warm personality”.

“Bianka and I were together for eight years, married for two, and to say she was the love of my life is an understatement,” he said in a statement.

“I can’t believe how quickly those eight years have flown by but they have definitely been the best years of my life.

“I know I was truly loved by her and the feeling was entirely mutual.”

Jude O'Brien

Photo: Jude O’Brien, 1, “never stopped smiling”, his father John says. (Supplied)

Mr O’Brien said he loved his son Jude with all his heart, describing him as the perfect baby who “never stopped smiling”.

“By far the proudest moment of my life was becoming a father,” he said.

“Jude had just started to walk and was only just discovering the world around him. Everything was exciting to him and he was just a joy to be around. He made everyone smile.”

He said the events of the past few days had been devastating, but he has been overwhelmed by the support from the community.

“Finally, I would like to extend my sympathy to the family of Chris Noble and everyone else who has been affected by this,” he said.

The owner of the convenience store on the Darling Street block, Adeel Khan, remained in intensive care at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Asbestos concerns at blast site

Concerns over asbestos contamination and an exclusion zone around the site the explosion and fire were discussed at a town hall meeting on Sunday.

The area around the blast site has been described by investigators as “very dangerous” and shut off to residents and business owners since Thursday.

Inspector Gary Coffey assured the gathering that authorities were addressing concerns over asbestos and the impact of an exclusion zone around the site.

“We understand the very real need to restore this community in a timely manner so that the healing process can begin,” Inspector Coffey said.

“I can assure you that we are all working very hard every minute of the day to try and achieve this.

“The priorities for the police operation are to assess the asbestos management at the site, reducing the exclusion zone to allow unaffected businesses to re-open and to provide pedestrian access to those businesses and crime scene examination.”

Local business owner Steve Isaac said his electrical store on Darling Street had been closed since Thursday and the exclusion zone set up around the blast site had been having a major impact on his business.

“Because it’s a crime scene and the street is closed off, it’s hard to get deliveries in and out and we’ve had a lot of cancellations,” Mr Isaac said.

“Most of us have had to stay shut.”

Inspector Coffey said a demolition order had been issued for the building next to the convenience store on Darling Street.

An accredited company carried out an asbestos inspection on Friday and told police asbestos had been detected on the ground and immediately around the site.

“An asbestos exclusion zone was put in place at the site, and the clean up commenced (on Saturday), and at the same time a hygienist commenced air monitoring at several locations around the site,” Inspector Coffey said.

“The result we received was that there was no airborne asbestos detected.

“Early this morning asbestos clean up at the site recommenced and we will be conducting further testing today and these results will determine how quickly we can reduce the exclusion footprint so that businesses can re-open.

“The site itself is very dangerous and the conditions are constantly changing, and we’ll keep everyone informed of developments.”

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A pain too great for young hearts to bear-Friends Unite updates


The hurtful, spiteful, threatening, race fuelled, pure troublemaking type comments that have slipped by in the past will now be dealt with in an instant with Zero tolerance folks.

Be nice to each other and speak to others as you would expect to be spoken to yourselves. With decency, tact and acceptance of others right to a view opposite to your own. You do not have to agree, just be polite about saying so, it is not too much to ask! Otherwise you will be put into direct moderation until I read and allow EVERY comment you make…is that what we want?

Also if you feel you have been unduly  harassed or singled out or baited by another, try to refrain from replying to that person and sent me off an email with the Subject ALERT.

I will deal with all queries ASAP…Thanks

Previous threads can be found using the links below, One being very first and so on…

One (26/04/12) here Two (14/05/12)  here Three (17/05/12) here Four (20/05/2012) here Five  (23/05/12) here Six (26/05/12) here Seven (28/05/12) here Eight (30/0512) here Nine (02/06/12) here Ten (08/06/12) here Eleven (11/06/12) here  Twelve 13/06/12 here
Maybe we take some time to reflect on the children.Who not that long ago, Had 2 pillars of strength in their eyes and lives. Now they have neither, but for the love of their grandparents, Allison’s mum and dad. Please scroll down to read the other story folks.A great idea from another friend of Allison’s, Deanne Hudson

A pain too great for young hearts to bear

by: Madonna King

June 16, 2012

The girls have lost both the pillars of their entire lives

THIS weekend, three little girls are bunkering down with their grandparents.

Still struggling to accept the death of their mother, they are now grappling with the awful accusation that she died at the hands of their father.

That’s almost too difficult for anyone, let alone a young child, to comprehend and you can understand that they might fight it, or even refuse to believe it.

Either way, the charging of their father this week will irrevocably change their lives.

Their mother’s death was inconceivable. How does a young child who still dances like no one is watching process news like that?

But it is the arrest of their father, who has looked after them since their mother’s death, that has now stolen the remaining pillar of the family life they knew and understood.

Gerard Baden-Clay is innocent, until proven otherwise. He deserves the right to a fair trial and should be given one, and he shouldn’t have to wait years for that.

But whatever the eventual verdict is, his children will remember his arms around them as they said goodbye to their mother at a funeral that broke all our hearts.

They will remember being told that their father had been taken away by police because they believed he had hurt their Mum, a woman everyone describes as an angel on earth.

As time passes, God willing and with the loving and protective support of Allison Baden-Clay’s parents, they will learn to focus on the memories that count: their Mum reading to them, tucking them in at night, holding their hands, and swallowing them up with that smile that has beamed out of newspaper pages since we first heard of Allison.

This story has enveloped our state because Allison looked like she had it all. Perhaps we were even a little bit envious of her life. A lovely house in the suburbs, three gorgeous children, and a good-looking husband who was going places.

That postcard image was shattered the day her lifeless body was pulled from a creek, and it was buried when her husband didn’t react in the way many of us wanted.

Now Allison’s parents Geoff and Priscilla Dickie have the unenviable task of rebuilding a family shell around Allison’s three little girls. That’s what she would have wanted; and that’s what they will bust their guts to do.

That’s going to be hard on them too. We saw the pain etched in their faces during public appeals for help as they told us that their lives would never be the same, and that their precious granddaughters just wanted their mum. Their quiet dignity served as an example for all of us.

So many grandparents now have direct care for their grandchildren, but the challenges ahead for the Dickie clan will be so much harder.

I remember the dress I wore to my father’s funeral. It was blue, with a pretty pink belt. I hid it under shoes in my cupboard after that day until no one mentioned it again. And then, because it was a reminder of a day I never wanted to revisit, I cut it into tiny pieces and threw it away.

My father was stolen from me by cancer, not murder. And I was a few years older than Allison’s girls. But memories are memories, and they can be cruel and unforgiving.

Brisbane will remember Allison Baden-Clay as the mum who was so much better than most of us. A mum who could choose the job she wanted, and chose the one of bringing up her three young daughters.

A woman whose elegant dignity meant she would listen to the heartache in others’ lives, but would not share any that might have been part of her life.

A woman who had enormous pride in her three little girls, who now deserve to look each night into the sky and see their mum as the brightest star, guiding them in creating new memories, but holding dear those she created for them.

Allison Baden-Clay’s friends organise event to pay tribute and support daughters

by: Alison Sandy

June 18, 2012

FRIENDS of slain Brookfield mum Allison Baden-Clay will band together for a day of health and well-being aimed at celebrating womanhood, the 43-year-old’s life and to help raise funds for her three daughters.

Allison’s friend Deanne Hudson was inspired to do something after another friend Kerry Anne Walker (pictured), spoke at the funeral

Former Ipswich Girls’ Grammar schoolmate Deanne Hudson said she was inspired by something Mrs Baden-Clay’s friend Kerry-Anne Walker said at the funeral.

“When all this happened with Allison, I just lost sleep like everybody else and I started to think about how I could bring something positive out of this whole thing,” she said.

“Kerry-Anne said, ‘Don’t wait, do – do something with your life’ and I just thought … many of us in life put things off, we hold back from doing something.”

The event, Wear it Today for Allison, on July 16, encourages supporters to wear something they’ve been saving for a special day that may never come.

“And at the same time, think of Allison and her daughters,” Mrs Hudson said.

“We might have something special that we’ve been given that we’re saving for a special day to wear. Sometimes that day may not come as we since found out.

“It’s really just trying to bring people together in unity by wearing something they may not have worn for a long time, or may have never worn.

Mrs Walker lamented at the funeral that she and Allison were always making plans, but often did not follow through.

“We were going to do this and we were going to do that – life I have learnt is precious, and too short,” she said.

“We must do; not plan to do – take the time to reach out to that friend you have not seen in a while, make that call or write that letter you have been meaning to write. Start that hobby or take that walk that you have been putting off. Spend that extra time in the day to really listen to your children rather than letting the daily stresses and strains take over. Drink the good wine, even have an extra Danish pastry.

“Tomorrow doesn’t always come. I now know that, I know that my darling Allison’s last lesson to me is ‘don’t wait, do’.”

Meanwhile, a cricket day fund-raiser will also be held on Saturday at Brookfield Showgrounds with all proceeds to go towards the trust fund set up for the Baden-Clay children.

Donations can be made to the Late Allison Baden-Clay Children Appeal. Sanction No. CP5609, BSB 084 737, account 133196502


The hurtful, spiteful, threatening, race fuelled, pure troublemaking type comments that have slipped by in the past will now be dealt with in an instant with Zero tolerance folks.

Be nice to each other and speak to others as you would expect to be spoken to yourselves. With decency, tact and acceptance of others right to a view opposite to your own. You do not have to agree, just be polite about saying so, it is not too much to ask!

Also if you feel you have been unduly  harassed or singled out or baited by another, try to refrain from replying to that person and sent me off an email with the Subject ALERT.I will deal with all queries ASAP…Thanks

A new thread has been started here, to continue the discussion folks.

How much longer till the police pounce on Baden-Clay killer?

Been a few days since an update and the other thread is getting very slow to load thanks to hundreds upon hundreds of comments and discussion. The stuff I’m hearing around the traps is amazing, and if I were in any way whatsoever involved in this I would be getting my affairs in order, because there is not a lot of time left on freedom street.

The Original extensive coverage here folks, with many more pictures and important videos…It is slow to load with so many comments…


These are the Baden-Clay cars, any connection to a smaller blue 4 wheel drive I wonder?

A WITNESS has told police of seeing two four-wheel-drives near Kholo Creek crossing early on the day Allison Baden-Clay was reported missing.

It is alleged a white four-wheel-drive didn’t have its headlights on, only parking lights, and was closely tailing a smaller, blue four-wheel-drive at about 4am on April 20.

The witness told of noticing the vehicles at Anstead in Brisbane’s west – within 2km of where the 43-year-old mother of three’s body was found 10 days later. Police said Mrs Baden-Clay was reported missing by her husband Gerard at 7.30am Friday after she failed to return from her usual morning walk.

He told police he had last seen his wife at their Brookfield home about 10pm the previous night.

It is understood several members of the community have come forward with information, triggering a number of new lines of investigation.

Police have established a major incident room with detectives, intelligence analysts and forensic officers to help with the investigation.
A trust fund has been set up for the daughters of Allison Baden-Clay. Donations can be made through the NAB to BSB: 084 737, account: 133 196 502, or via

They are believed to be awaiting results from forensic tests including toxicology.

The Baden-Clays’ cars – a white Toyota Prado four-wheel-drive and a silver Holden Captiva – were taken in by police for forensic tests and have since been released.

Mrs Baden-Clay’s funeral, held last Friday, included a guard of honour by students from Ipswich Girls’ Grammar where she was vice-captain.

Talks are under way to establish a memorial plaque for the mother of three as tributes continue to pour in.

Several fundraisers have been held.

Well-wishers wanting to help the Baden-Clay family have been encouraged to donate to the Allison Baden-Clay appeal. Donations can be made via NAB to BSB: 084737, account number: 133196502.

Celebrations at this week’s Brookfield Show, held just 200m from the Baden-Clays’ home, are expected to be somewhat sombre.

The show, which begins tomorrow at Brookfield Showgrounds where police set up a command post while they searched for Mrs Baden-Clay , was sponsored last year by Gerard Baden-Clay’s Century 21 real estate franchise.

The Baden-Clay family have been members of the Brookfield Show Society in the past but it is believed they did not renew their membership this year.

The show is expected to attract about 20,000 people.

Brookfield Show Society president James Booth said the event would be a rallying point for the community affected by the tragic loss of Mrs Baden-Clay.

How long more till the police pounce on Baden-Clay killer?

How long more will the public have to wait for the police to make an arrest over the brutal killing of Allison Baden-Clay?

Time is creeping on and the police have assured the people of Brisbane’s western suburbs there is no crazed killer on the loose ready to attack again.

If that is true, they must have their quarry well and truly within their sights and must be superbly confident the killer will not strike again.

Speculation remains at fever pitch across southeast Queensland as to the identity of the killer.

There is even a suggestion in legal circles that up to 5 people may be arrested over the murder, including accessories after the fact. Presumably, if that is right, the police will make simultaneous arrests over the next few days, which would make a 5-pronged interviewing process incredibly demanding on the police as well as putting intense pressure on those in custody to confess.

Speculation is rife that the killer may have even attended the church service at St Paul’s in Ipswich last Friday which might explain the incredible rumour circulating at the moment that the police had secret microphones planted in the flowers at the service in case someone whispered words which could be construed by a jury as a confession or an admission or indication of guilt.

It seems the police are leaving no stone unturned in this case with phone taps, vehicle tracking devices and seizure of medical and computer records no doubt just the tip of the iceberg, as the net closes on the killer who will have more explaining to do than Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson combined.

This is shaping up as the murder trial to end all trials in Queensland with justice for Allison Baden-Clay hopefully only hours away.


A SCIENTIST who gave forensic evidence in the defence of Lindy Chamberlain says Allison Baden-Clay’s body would be telling the story of her death to detectives investigating her murder.

As police reveal they are close to an arrest, one of Australia’s best-known biological scientists, professor emeritus Barry Boettcher, said pathology results would be telling police what Mrs Baden-Clay can’t.

The mother-of-three’s body was found on the banks of the Kholo Creek at Mt Crosby on April 30, 11 days after she allegedly left her Brookfield home for a late-night walk.

She was reported missing at 7.30am the following morning by her husband, Gerard.

Her body was discovered by a passing canoeist, who spotted her lying on the bank of the creek under a bridge.

It is not known whether she had been there the entire time, whether she had been moved, or whether heavy rain in the days before the discovery washed her downstream.

Prof Boettcher said in many cases, it could be easily determined.

“When somebody dies, blood will pool to the lowest portions of the body depending on how they are positioned,” he said.

“If the body is then moved, that could be determined from the body being in a different position to where the blood has already settled if the blood is not appropriate to the new position.”

He said the blood would not re-pool if a body had been in a certain position for some days.

“Forensic people would readily be able to determine whether a body had been moved after several days,” Prof Boettcher said.

The professor said it was unusual to get useful information from under someone’s fingernails.

“Material under the fingernails would suffer from being in water but secondly – and I have specifically done a study on this – it is a beautiful spot for bacteria to grow,” Prof Boettcher said.

“Material under the fingernails will get digested from under the fingernails in just a few hours.

“I often scoff at television programs that show people being convicted on vital evidence obtained from under fingernails because it needs to be obtained very rapidly.”

He said it could take weeks for police to receive all the results from forensic tests.

Former lecturer and author of Crucial Errors in Murder Investigations Ted Duhs, who has worked with Prof Boettcher, said it was obvious police were working to eliminate various theories on the killer.

“A murder is about theories, who the perpetrator was, what the motive was and so on,” he said.

“I noticed the investigating detective said he did not believe it was a random killing – and if that is true then they have eliminated at least one theory.”

Detective Superintendent Mark Ainsworth confirmed this weekend that police did not believe Mrs Baden-Clay was killed by a random attacker.

“At this stage we don’t believe it is random,” he said.

“We believe that Allison may have known her attacker.”

Yesterday, Mrs Baden-Clay’s three daughters, aged 10, 8 and 5, had their first Mother’s Day without her.

My Poem dedicated to Allison by Robbo

Silly man, thought you could play
By making the wife just go away…

Weak and cowardly, you lied and lied
Knowing your kids mummy, had already died

You tried to hide and play so sad
Made everyone around you so very mad

Coward Clay, a poor excuse of a man
You are on your way to a prison van.



Bracken Bridge mother Noni Zischke found murdered -Husband Trevor Zischke Charged…TOWBALL USED

What a shocking situation for another family, this time in Bracken Ridge  Qld…More details to come, but we do know the husband was taken into custody after his car was intercepted on the Bruce Highway following the discovery of his wife’s body this morning…It is alleged he smashed her head with a towball and then stabbed her…A Despicable, gutless, cowardly act

UPDATE 10/05/12

Trevor Ernie Zischke, 53, of Bracken Ridge stared at the floor during his brief appearance in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today where he was accused of murdering his wife Noni, 55, in the bedroom of their home yesterday.

A MAN has faced court charged with the murder of his wife after he allegedly bludgeoned her about the head with a car towball before stabbing her with a knife.

Trevor Ernie Zischke, 53, of Bracken Ridge stared at the floor during his brief appearance in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today where he was accused of murdering his wife Noni, 55, in the bedroom of their home yesterday.

Zischke was arrested when police intercepted his vehicle a few hours later at Morayfield as he headed north towards the Bruce Highway.

Defence lawyer Adam Magill adjourned the case for a mention in June before his client was remanded in custody.

Zischke must go to the Supreme Court if he wants to seek bail, but outside court, Mr Magill said he had no plans to make that application.

“He’s in a terrible state, he’s both emotionally and physically devastated,” he said.

“It’s a tragic end to a very long relationship unfortunately.”

Police are expected to allege Zischke used the towball of a car to bash his wife in the head before stabbing her.

“The facts are very sketchy at this point in time but it does appear that the intention was for him to end his own life but he just couldn’t get to that stage,” Mr Magill said.

Despite the charge, he said Zischke’s family are still supporting him after engaging Mr Magill on Wednesday night.

He confirmed the 53-year-old would be on suicide watch during his time in custody and was more of a threat to himself than anyone else.

“I think there are definitely some mental health issues there. I think the gravity of the whole thing has just hit him now,” he said.

“He’s not in a good way. He’s really struggling with it.”
NEIGHBOURS are “heartbroken” by discovery of Noni Zischke’s body in a Brisbane home. Their reaction follows dramatic roadside arrest of her husband, Trevor  Zischke.

NEIGHBOURS are “heartbroken” by discovery of Noni Zischke’s body in a Brisbane home. Their reaction follows dramatic roadside arrest of her husband, Trevor Zischke.

Police found the body of Noni Zischke in her Bracken Ridge home shortly after 10am.

Neighbours described the mother of two as a “beautiful lady”.

Mrs Zischke lived at the home with her husband Trevor and adult son Tim. Their adult daughter Nicole had previously moved out.

Mr Zischke was intercepted while driving toward the Bruce Highway this morning.

He was driving a vehicle heading north.

Detectives, scenes of crime officers and forensic experts are at the Tallara St home.

Police cordoned off the street after being called to the double story brick house about 10.20am where they located the body inside.

Lathmahina said he had known the family since 1982.

“My wife and I, we went out shopping (about 9.45am) and when we came back the road was packed with cars and we were just wondering what was happening,” he said.

“We came back from shopping and (Tim Zischke) was already here with his sister Nicole.

“Trevor does the mowing. I help him out sometimes with fixing up the whipper snipper.”

Mr Lathmahina broke down as he described Mrs Zischke.

“I look at them just like my family,” he said.

“They were a very nice family.

“She’s a beautiful lady. She respect me. I respect them.”

Mr Lathmahina said he was “heartbroken”.

“It was just like a surprise,” he said.

“Where I come from (PNG) these is no such thing like this. We just help one another.”

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or 24hrs a day.

Detectives driving both marked and unmarked cars detained the man at the entry to the northbound exit onto the Bruce Highway off Buchanan Rd at Morayfield at midday.

He was fitted in a blue suit at the scene, likely in an effort to preserve any forensic evidence.

Police have cordoned off the exit and warned motorists to exercise caution.

Police were called to the double story Bracken Ridge home about 10.20am where the body of a woman was located inside.

Ex CFA trainee Brendan Sokaluk guilty of Black Saturday arson deaths-DPP APPEALS SENTENCE

DPP appeals sentence handed to Black Saturday arsonist Brendan Sokaluk

AND SO THEY SHOULD, HE SHOULD GET THAT FOR EACH DEATH, NEVER TO LEAVE JAIL.WHAT SORT OF MESSAGE DOES IT SEND? An arsonist would get the same for burning down a Bunnings store  in the middle of the night with no deaths….Extremely inadequate…

UPDATE 30/05/12

THE Director of Public Prosecutions has appealed the 17-years and nine-month maximum – with 14-year-minimum – sentence imposed on one of Victoria’s worst killers, Black Saturday arsonist Brendan James Sokaluk, arguing the jail term was “manifestly inadequate”.

The Churchill fire which Sokaluk started, by deliberately throwing burning paper out his car window on the 46.3C day, killed 10 people, destroyed 156 homes and burnt 36,000ha.

Sokaluk, 42, was found guilty by a jury of ten counts of arson causing death over the February 7, 2009 blaze and was sentenced in April by Supreme Court judge Justice Paul Coghlan.

With almost three years already spent on remand, Sokaluk, a one-time CFA volunteer, would have been eligible for parole in just over 11 years.

Each count of arson causing death carries a maximum 25 years jail.

In delivering his sentence, Justice Coghlan cited Sokaluk’s autism spectrum disorder, but said in the jury’s verdict they had dismissed his claims the fire was started by accident after Sokaluk said he used a napkin to dispose of a burning ember from his cigarette.


Brendan Sokaluk is taken into the Supreme Court in custody before his sentence.

Read the Royal Commission report into the Churchill blaze

Expert evidence during the trial showed the paper could only have ignited the blaze if already burning when thrown from the vehicle.

Justice Coghlan said Sokaluk also tried to divert attention by making an insurance claim on his car the day after the fire and sending an email to Crime Stoppers claiming to have seen a DSE firefighter starting the blaze.

At the time of sentencing, the judge said the law did not seek to place a value, in terms of sentence length, on each life lost.

Listen to Justice Coghlan sentence Sokaluk

“For the victims, these were and are life-changing events and no sentence that I impose can in any way compensate for their loss,” Justice Coghlan said.

“The law, through me, does not intend to put a value on a life in those terms. Each life is precious . . . not just to the victim but to the community as a whole.”

Listen to Sokaluk’s Triple-0 phone call


Killed were brothers David and Colin Gibson, who died defending their parents’ property at Glendonald Rd; Annette Leatham, at her daughter’s property on Cooks Rd, Callignee; Alfred Frendo and his son Scott, caught in or near their vehicles near the family home in Old Callignee Rd, Callignee; Martin Schultz, as he sought refuge in his ute in a creek bed while trying to drive from his home at Factory Rd, Callignee; and Allan and Miros Jacobs, their son Luke and Luke’s friend Nathan Charles at the Jacobs’ property at Traralgon Creek Rd, Koornalla.

The DPP appeal for a longer sentence will be heard in the Court of Appeal on a date to be fixed.

Patrick Carlyon: The boy who played with fire

View Sokaluk’s path of destruction in a larger map


Watch Brendan Sokaluk’s explosive police interview where he admits to starting the fatal Churchill blaze that killed ten people and returns…

Arsonist’s confession

A jury today found Brendan Sokaluk guilty of starting the devastating Churchill bushfire that took the lives of 10 people on Black Saturday.

It is believed no one else in the state’s criminal history has killed more people.

Sokaluk, 42, looked confused but showed little emotion when the jury foreperson announced “guilty” as each of the 10 counts of arson causing death were read out in the Supreme Court today.

Sokaluk looked round the court, chewed his lip and twitched nervously.

Victims who lost family members and friends in the inferno were in court to hear the verdict and they smiled and hugged each other.

Sokaluk will face a pre-sentence plea hearing on a date to be fixed but his lawyer announced as she left court that it was likely he would appeal the verdicts.

Asked how Sokaluk was feeling Jane Dixon SC said “Shattered, of course”.

“I think he’s a bit lost at the moment,” she said.

During the trial Ms Dixon painted a picture of a harmless individual, a “simpleton” whose autism set him apart from others in the community.

“He’s a bit of a misfit really, but nevertheless he muddled along in his own way muddled along OK with a bit of help from his mum and dad, comfortable enough with his own company, his dog, his hobbies, his obsessions,” she told the jury in her summing up.

But the Crown painted a different picture.

A man who deliberately drove to bushland and started a fire on a day that had temperatures that reached nearly 45C and ended with a 70km/h wind change that blasted the fire front across the homes of his victims.

A man who was calculating enough to lie about his reasons for being in the area, to try to cover his tracks and to point the finger at others.

The trial before Justice Paul Coghlan was told people in the Churchill area thought Sokaluk was a weirdo and called him” beanie boy” and other names and as soon as locals learned he was in the area where the bushfire erupted he became the prime suspect.

And he knew it.

Listen to Sokaluk’s 000 call

Sokaluk was questioned by police five days after Black Saturday and took part in a reconstruction of his movements on the day and in a later four-hour record of interview told detectives he had “done it accidentally”.

He gave an explanation that a piece of ash dropped from a cigarette as he was driving along a dirt road and he scooped it up in a napkin and threw it out of his car window.

This led him to believe he had started the inferno that consumed 36,000ha and destroyed 156 homes.

The case against Sokaluk was circumstantial. No one saw him light the two fires at the junction of Glendonald Rd and Jelleffs Outlet, about 3km from Churchill fire station.

Prosecutor Ray Elston SC told the jury it was the Crown case that Sokaluk tried to disguise his crime by claiming to police that it was an accident, lying about his reasons for being in the area and trying to point the finger at others.

Police managed to piece together Sokaluk’s movements on Black Saturday almost to the minute from phone records, witness accounts, shop receipts and CCTV footage.

In the morning of Sokaluk picked up his father Kazimir in his distinctive sky blue Holden HJ and the pair drove to Morwell and Traralgon, visited auto and hardware stores, had lunch at KFC and bought lottery tickets.

Kazimir Sokaluk said Brendan’s car was playing up and “running rough” but against his advice his son said he was “going up into the trees” because it was cooler there.

Sokaluk also said he wanted to get a chisel set back from a friend named Dave who lived in that area.

At 1.16 pm Sokaluk was in the IGA store in Churchill where he bought cigarettes before heading off into the Jeeralang Hills.

Within 15 minutes a fire erupted in the hills and witnesses said that in tinder dry conditions the inferno tore through the bush seawards towards Yarram.

Later in the day a devastating wind change forced the fire to burn back on itself and in the hours following 10 people died.

Sokaluk pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of arson causing death and two counts of causing a bushfire, over the blaze in Gippsland on February 7, 2009.

The Crown called 80 witnesses and its case was a mosaic of evidence that pointed to the guilt of Sokaluk.

Mr Elston told the jury the accused had no reason to be in the area that day and if he was going to see Dave, who was home, he never got there.

“Why did he travel on a dirt road to get out there?” Mr Elston said to the jury in his summing up. “Why did he drive off that dirt road on to a graded track on the south side of Glendonald Road?

“That is obviously the wrong side of the road for someone going east. He he chooses (a track) one on the right-hand side closest to the eucalypts.”

Read the Royal Commission report on the Churchill blaze

Sokaluk admitted to police he was the only person in the area just before the fire started and the jury heard a 000 call he made to report the fire and in which he told an operator “it’s getting big”.

A short distance from where the fire started Sokaluk’s car broke down and he was spotted at the side of the road by a Churchill CFA truck and then later picked up by a couple who drove him back to town.

Neighbours saw Sokaluk on his roof watching the progress of the fire and for some never explained reason he later walked back into the fire area.

A resident found him in his back yard and told him to shelter in his house a few minutes before the returning fire storm passed.

The jury saw a pathetic picture of Sokaluk with a garden hose in his hand taken by the resident.

Mr Elston said Sokaluk told a number of differing stories about his reasons for going to the hills and performed several incriminating acts, including making a false anonymous report to Crime Stoppers from his home computer blaming a DSE worker.

Ms Dixon told the jury it was a “finely balanced circumstantial case” against her client and Crown case was not “bullet proof”.

Ms Dixon said people who knew her client described him as a “lights out and no-one home” type of personality.

But the technical term was that he had autism spectrum disorder, a neuro developmental disorder which affects his communication, executive processing and his sensory perceptions.

In her summing up Ms Dixon told the jury to reject the prosecution case that Sokaluk was a calculating and cunning liar.

“Frankly Brendan Sokaluk would not be capable of calculating his way even out of a paper bag unless he had a map,” Ms Dixon said.

“He’s not retarded, he’s not dumb in that sense, but he’s certainly not in terms of autism, he’s not some Rain Man character”.

But the jury rejected the notion Sokaluk was an innocent victim of circumstance and who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was a killer who brought death and devastation to his own community and left a vile legacy for LaTrobe Valley that will never be forgotten or erased.


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