- Trial Day 2: Junction Hotel suitors told of owners’ financial stress
- Trial Day 3: Investigators outline Junction Hotel fire cause
- Trial Day 4: Facebook photo gives detectives new lead
- Trial Day 5: Phone calls show mix-up over hanging picture
- Trial Day 6: ‘Why would I set it on fire?’ Jozef Jansen denies claims
THE sale of the Junction Hotel at Ravenswood fell through three days before it was destroyed by fire, a court has been told.
The hotel’s then-owner Jozef Jansen, 65, and his son Remco Jansen, 42, are standing trial in the Bendigo County Court after both pleaded not guilty to a charge of arson for gain.
Jozef Jansen is also charged with obtaining property by deception for allegedly receiving insurance payouts from APIA totaling more than $300,000.
The hotel on the Calder Highway was destroyed by fire on the night of June 9, 2014.
In the prosecution opening, Kevin Doyle outlined the alleged “unenviable financial position” of the Jansens as they attempted to sell the Junction Hotel before the fire.
He said the Commonwealth Bank sent Jozef Jansen a default notice of almost $129,000 on May 22, 2014.
A buyer paid Jansen deposits of $2000 and $20,000 with a view of purchasing the hotel, but pulled out of the deal on June 6 when he found out about a VicRoads overlay on the property.
That same day, Jansen’s wife booked them into a motel in Moama for the night of June 9, when the hotel was destroyed.
The couple took their dog with them, the court heard. Mr Doyle also alleged the Jansens took a framed photograph of their deceased son, and an antique clock – items of “sentimental value”.
Police obtained text messages between Jozef and Remco Jansen, including an exchange between the pair from 5.11pm.
Jozef Jansen allegedly told Remco, “tell him to do it”, to which Remco replied, “you want me to move it along?”
The pair allegedly exchanged text messages after the fire started about 9.30pm, in which Remco tells Jozef Jansen about a “big fire” in the area. Jozef allegedly told him to delete the messages, the court was told.
Police began tracing calls between the two men from September 17. They allegedly discussed each other’s evidence.
Mr Doyle claimed there were discrepancies in their evidence about the framed photograph, and the reason for Jozef Jansen travelling to Moama on the night of the fire.
The court was told Jozef Jansen told police he was going fishing, while Remco told police his parents went to Moama to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.
The court heard two arson chemists – one from police, one from APIA – concluded the fire started in the hotel office.
The APIA arson chemist claimed the fire was started by an overloaded powerboard, while police claimed it started in a computer in the office.
David Gray, acting for Jozef Jansen, said there was “no evidence of inflammable material” and the fire was an “electrical malfunction”.
The prosecution conceded its case was “circumstantial”.
The trial continues.