What actually happened.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
We left our stunning house, Killara in Waipapa just outside Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, on route to Hamilton at around 9:30 in the morning of 9 September 2011. The house was perfect, the lawns had been mowed and the gardens weeded the day before we left, we were intensely proud of the home that we had created, as you will see in these images it was truly beautiful. Naturally, all the doors and windows were secure as was normal when we left home.
The first we knew of the fire was when DS Sam Bindon of Kerikeri Police rang us at 9.00am on the morning of the 10 September, we were at a motel in Hamilton almost 400Km away from the house. He told us that we should return home and that the damage was very severe, little was left standing.
Fire Service officer, FSO, Craig Bain was quite forthright when we arrived home at around 4:30pm the next day, telling us the fire had been caused by ‘Vandals’ and the attending Police officers were also very sympathetic.
Everything changed when the IAG insurance investigators arrived, it quickly became apparent that they were not looking for the cause of the fire but a way to avoid the insurance claim.
In late November 2011, we went to see lawyer, Andrew Hooker, an Auckland based insurance law specialist. He told us that the situation we found ourselves in was far from uncommon, he had tens of similar cases and many of them would take years to resolve, IAG, he suggested, would go to any length to prevent meeting the claim. He would write to them to try to find out what was happening.
Weeks passed, Andrew exchanged letters with IAG’s lawyer Chris Hlavac who was representing them in our case, the letters just kept repeating that the investigation had not finished and said no more.
Andrew Hooker was not getting anywhere with IAG, he said that they seemed to be wasting time deliberately and that the only answer was to issue proceedings against them in the High Court for repudiation. The papers were prepared and the case was filed in mid March, Andrew explained to us that IAG would have 25 working days to file a defence and that would give him something to work with. The deadline was around the 21 April 2012.
Nothing was heard until on 17 April, D C Dawson and another officer arrived at our rented Tapu house, I was arrested for Arson!
I was bailed so I spent a day checking through the Police photographs taken of the scene by DS Sam Binden immediately after the fire that I had been given after the Police interview, most were taken before we got back to the site.
Here you see the bi-fold doors that gave access to Eleanor’s bedroom. The soot covered door is folded back, the soot was on the side facing into the room! Note the large hole!
Looking at the door from the inside you can see an impact took place that did not break the laminated ‘anti slam’ glass, and below it a more violent impact that punctured it. The larger stone was found inside the room!
Now looking again at the first photograph, when the door was closed the hole would have been adjacent to the lock on the door to the left. DS Sam Binden had found the door unlocked, the bolt withdrawn and the thumb turn in the vertical unlocked position!
Clearly, there was a break in to the property after we left and before the fire! The method of entry here was exactly the same as in the previous break in, one of the large garden stones being thrown through the door’s glass to get to the lock which was then unlocked to gain entry!
DS Sam Binden also recorded the beer bottles and cigarette butts in the barn!
The comments about vandals made by the Fire Service and Police when we arrived at the fire scene all made sense after seeing these images but how they arrest me for arson when there were intruders in the property after we left the house?.
They were sent to the laboratory for Forensic testing, the bottles found to contain petrol1 and the two cigarette butts carried two different DNA signatures, both unidentified!
It is impossible to know how many of our belongings were removed by the intruders, empty jewellery cases were found in the debris along with photographs that had been removed from their solid silver frames but almost everything was either destroyed in the fire or stolen.
One dreadful thought haunted us, was this an attempt to KILL us? We had the two cars in the garage and a light switching on and off upstairs in the kitchen to make it look like we were at home, did the intruders expect to find us in bed? If not how did they know we were away, only the boarding cattery knew we were going away for a few days? The Police didn’t even investigate who actually caused the fire – the insurance company wanted me to be arrested and that was what happened.
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