Echuca man burns friend's 'hut' in rage, court hears

An Echuca man who burnt his best friend’s house to the ground in a jealous rage looks set to be jailed for at least two years.

Christopher Abbott, 23, faced the Victorian County Court on Thursday pleading guilty to a raft of charges including arson, intentionally causing injury, false imprisonment and criminal damage.

The court heard Abbott’s offending stemmed from the breakdown of his five-year relationship with his partner, who then started seeing his best friend.

Prosecuting, Peter Jones said Abbott’s partner had “kicked him out of the house” in 2010 mainly because of his drug use. Mr Jones said Abbott had returned to his partner’s home on October 23, 2010, and became angry when he found a message from his friend on her phone.

He punched holes in the walls of the house, then punched his partner to the nose. 

“He dragged her outside and put her in the car holding her there against her will,” Mr Jones said.

“Eventually she was taken to a house in Kyabram. 

“She was placed on the floor, in pain, and was watched over by the accused. When he fell asleep she escaped to a friend’s house.”

Mr Jones said Abbott’s offending continued when he decided to burn down his friend’s “hut” and workshop in Torney Street, Tongala.

“He wanted to cause the victim as much harm as he had caused him,” Mr Jones said. “He rammed his 4WD into the door of the shed to gain access. He poured accelerant into a near new Holden utility and lit it.” 

Mr Jones said the arson damage bill was more than $160,000.

Abbott’s defence counsel, Kate Youngson, said her client had “lost the plot” and was taking drugs – amphetamines, ice and cannabis – on an increasing basis at the time of offending.

“He believed he was losing everything dear to him and instead of acting sensibly he thought he could force the victim to be with him,” she said. “In one fell swoop he lost his partner, child, best friend, house and job. He was in the depths of depression having lost everything he cared for.”

Ms Youngson said Abbott and his partner were now reconciled and she was supporting him in court.

She said Abbott had applied for anger management and drug rehabilitation programs, and was working to get his life back on track.

“I ask you to give some hope to a young man looking to a future in the workforce and supporting his family,” she said to Judge Lance Pilgrim.

Judge Pilgrim adjourned the sentencing to September 21 in the same court.

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