A SPATE of fires throughout Eaglehawk earlier this year caused widespread angst and trauma, a court has heard.
The Eaglehawk Fire Brigade and Bendigo Baseball Association gave statements to the Bendigo County Court during a hearing for two men who have pleaded guilty to the fires.
Corey Deveraux, 23, and Ricky Mackay, 22, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to 13 counts of arson, one count of perverting the course of justice and summary offences.
The men were responsible for 20 fires lit at night predominantly in Eaglehawk between January 19 and February 21, causing $825,000 in damage to public and private property.
On Tuesday, they heard of the physical, mental and financial hardship their actions had caused.
In a victim impact statement, Eaglehawk Fire Brigade captain Hayden Allen said members suffered fatigue while waiting all night for the next call out.
He said the level of “damage and destruction” caused emotional stress to members who, on one occasion, attended three fires in one night.
The brigade was also forced to go through its membership to rule out firefighters from the police investigation, adding to the stress, the statement read.
One member was hospitalised while fighting one of the fires, and paramedics treated members suffering heat stress at another fire.
Deveraux and Mackay also targeted the Bendigo Baseball Association club rooms at Albert Roy Reserve as part of an attack on another individual who had “fallen out” with a friend of Deveraux.
One fire, on February 4, caused $550,000 damage to the club rooms – built 30 years ago by volunteers. Almost all of the association’s memorabilia dating back 80 years was destroyed in the fire.
Bendigo Baseball Association property officer Helen Aikman provided a statement to the court outlining the “devastation and feeling of despair” experienced by those involved in the baseball community.
“We are now less able to help those who need to be a part of sport in the community,” she said.
“There was that feeling of not knowing what’s next.”
Judge slams pair for ‘inciting hatred’
Judge Jane Campton slammed the two Eaglehawk arsonists for “inciting hatred” by using graffiti in an attempt to implicate Bendigo’s Muslim community in their arson spree earlier this year.
Judge Jane Campton became frustrated when the details of one fire, lit at St Liborius Primary School on February 9, was read to the court.
Deveraux had used spray paint to write the words “Islam rules” and “F--- Aussies” on the Catholic school, after the two men lit a fire in an area of the school under renovation. The fire failed to spread, and caused $400 damage.
Judge Campton said there was “irony” in the fact the men had attempted to give the impression that Muslims were responsible for the arson attacks.
“You’re inciting hatred by doing this, and I condemn you,” she said.
“It is important that the wider community reflects on this.”
Deveraux and Mackay have spent 217 days in custody since their arrest on February 21 and are likely to serve a further non-parole period when they are sentenced next month, the court heard.
The court was told Deveraux and Mackay laughed when they heard their fires called in on a police scanner, and would monitor them using the CFA FireReady app.
A psychologist’s assessment found neither man could be described as a “pyromaniac”.
Mackay’s defence counsel, Russell Kelly, said the two men were “feeding off one another” and neither could be considered the principle offender.
“It’s clear he got caught up in the cycle of offending,” he said.
Mr Kelly said Mackay, who has an intellectual disability, was unable to explain why he could not stop the arson spree.
Mackay’s insight into his offending was also limited, the court heard.
A large number of Deveraux’s family members sat in court on Tuesday, and heard he had written letters of apology to the victims.
The court heard Deveraux was “well aware of the significance of his offending” and had demonstrated remorse.
Shannon Deveraux, the brother of Corey, was placed on a 12-month community corrections order for his role, in which he mainly kept watch while the other two lit a number of the fires.
The two men will be sentenced in the Bendigo County Court on October 13.