Junction Hotel arson trial: Jury finds then-owner and son guilty of arson for gain

Trial coverage, day-by-day:

THE then-owner of the Junction Hotel and his son have been found guilty of arson for gain over the fire that gutted the premises in 2014.

A jury of 12 in the Bendigo County Court found Jozef Jansen, 65, and Remco Jansen, 42, guilty on Thursday.

The verdict followed a seven-day trial which traced the series of events that lead up to the fire on June 9, 2014, the events on the day of the fire, and the actions of the two accused in the weeks and months after.

Jozef Jansen was also found guilty of obtaining property by deception for claiming more than $300,000 in insurance from APIA.

Despite two arson chemists finding the fire was likely caused by an electrical fault in the hotel’s office, the jury was able to determine within reasonable doubt that Jozef Jansen and Remco Jansen were responsible for the fire.

Multiple witnesses spoke of the financial difficulties facing the Jansens in early 2014, and their desperate attempts to sell the hotel.

The court was told the sale of the hotel fell through on June 6, three days before the fire. The prospective buyer pulled out after finding out about a VicRoads overlay on the property.

When they found out about the failed sale, the wife of Jozef Jansen booked them into a motel in Moama for the night of June 9.

Remco Jansen remained at his premises in Kangaroo Flat, but mobile phone records showed he exchanged text messages and phone calls with his father on the day of the fire.

Twenty minutes before the fire was discovered, Remco Jansen’s mobile phone was using service from a south-facing cell of the Big Hill phone tower. However, he told police he did not go to the area until he was made aware of the fire.

The two also earlier spoke about moving things along faster, and that Jozef was “no good at this”.

Prosecutor Kevin Doyle said it was likely electrical equipment in the office was tampered with before the fire, and placed the blame on Remco Jansen.

The trial also focused on the removal of sentimental items from the hotel before the fire, including an antique clock and a large picture of the Jansen’s deceased son.

Jozef and Remco Jansen gave conflicting stories to police about the reason for the removal of the picture.

Police were intercepting their calls for several months, and listened while the two discussed their evidence and ways to explain their discrepancies.

Jozef Jansen granted bail, to return to New South Wales

Jozef Jansen was granted bail after the guilty verdict in order to care for his wife, who recently suffered a stroke.

Jozef Jansen moved to Old Bar, New South Wales, with his wife in the months after the fire that gutted the Junction Hotel at Ravenswood.

Judge Jane Patrick granted him bail on strict conditions.

“She’s clearly been struggling with some stress about the current situation,” she said.

“I’m a bit concerned about it, but I guess if Mr Jansen senior has got his wife into a difficulty situation, he bears some responsibility trying to work this out between now and the (sentencing) date.”

Remco Jansen did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody.

The two men will appear at a directions hearing at the County Court in Melbourne on October 24.