Australia’s most wanted arson suspect was volunteer firefighter

February 16th, 2009 - 12:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 16 (DPA) A court Monday identified Brendan Sokaluk as the 39-year-old man facing arson charges over a forest fire in his hometown of Churchill north of Melbourne that killed 21 people and burned out 36,000 hectares.

The former volunteer firefighter was remanded in custody to appear in May on charges of arson causing death and intentionally lighting a bushfire.

He did not appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and was not required to put in a plea. Defence lawyer Helen Spowart had urged the court not to name her client.

“This is an extraordinary case,” she said. “The level of emotion and anger and disgust that the alleged offences have aroused in the community is unprecedented.”

Information gleaned from Sokaluk’s social networking site shows him to fit a personality profile regularly apparent in arsonists. A loner who held a grudge against his former girlfriend, his weak grasp of spelling and grammar mark him out as poorly educated.

“I’m a young happy male who wants to meet a young loven female to marrid,” he wrote. “l don,t read books because they put me to sleep. my heroe is mother earth with out her we all would be dead.”

Sokaluk has also been charged with possessing child pornography. The arson and bushfire charges carry a maximum penalty of 40 years in jail.

The official death toll from the Feb 7 fires stands at 181, but the body count is expected to exceed 200. More than 1,830 houses were razed and more than 7,000 people made homeless.

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