- Trial Day 1: Junction Hotel arson trial begins in Bendigo
- Trial Day 2: Junction Hotel suitors told of owners’ financial stress
- Trial Day 4: Facebook picture gave 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
A FORENSIC fire investigator claims an overloaded powerboard was the cause of the fire that destroyed the Junction Hotel in Ravenswood.
But he refused to rule out the possibility that a “small amount” of fire accelerant could have been used to start the fire in the hotel’s office, which went on to gut the entire building.
The hotel’s then-owner Jozef Jansen, 65, and his son Remco Jansen, 42, faced the third day of an arson for gain trial in the Bendigo County Court on Thursday.
Jozef Jansen is also on trial for allegedly obtaining property by deception by claiming more than $300,000 from insurance company APIA.
Phil Glover was engaged by APIA to examine the fire scene on June 11, 2014 – two days after the fire.
Mr Glover, who has investigated more than 5000 fires, said the origin could be traced to the hotel’s office.
He said one end of a powerboard found in the room displayed signs of being exposed to intense heat.
“The fire originated within a powerboard which was on the floor near the southeast corner of the office,” Mr Glover told the court.
“The powerboard had at least three electrical devices plugged into it, with another powerboard with at least two devices.
“It is not clear if the power rating of the powerboard had been exceeded causing it to be overloaded.”
A computer, monitor, wifi unit and phone charger were plugged into the powerboard, the court was told.
Mr Glover said the socket which connected to the second powerboard was where the fire likely originated, but could not rule out an accelerant.
“It doesn’t exclude the possibility that a small amount could have been applied to initiate the fire, there’s always that possibility,” he said.
The fire spread from the office to other rooms of the building before it was discovered by passerby Darren Eenjes about 9.20pm.
Mr Eenjes, who works as a senior station officer at Bendigo CFA, earlier told the court he estimated the fire had been going for 15 minutes when he arrived.
Police fire investigator Rachel Noble was less conclusive with her established cause of the fire.
She told the court the extent of the damage to computer equipment within the office made it difficult to determine how the fire started.
“The seat of the fire occurred within that office, in the southwest corner specifically,” Ms Noble said.
“There was no evidence of liquid to spread the fire… no containers amongst the debris.
“Damaged computer equipment was in the area of origin, was perhaps the most likely source of the fire.
“Match or cigarette lighter could not excluded, however there was no evidence to support this.”
The court earlier heard evidence about the months leading up to the fire, including financial difficulties experienced by Jozef Jansen and the falling through of the sale of the hotel three days before the fire.
Jozef Jansen was staying at a motel in Moama with his wife on the night of the fire – a booking they made on June 6, when the sale of the hotel fell through.
The trial continues on Friday.