18 Jan 2017

Man jailed for razing family home

4:31 pm on 18 January 2017

A Dunedin electrician destroyed his family's "place of safety" when he drank 18 bottles of beer and burnt down the family home, a judge has said.

Fire engine north of Gisborne.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Craig Scoullar, 55, has been jailed for three and a half years after pleading guilty last November to arson and drink driving.

He appeared in the Dunedin District Court today for sentencing before Judge Kevin Phillips.

The court was told that in October last year, Scoullar's relationship with his partner of 20 years had broken down, and she had moved out of the house along with the couple's two children.

Scoullar, who was self-employed, was also under significant financial stress.

Judge Phillips said, on 8 October, four days after the relationship break-up, Scoullar filled several cans of petrol at a petrol station and bought matches.

He drank 18 bottles of beer and wrote suicide notes to his two children, and doused his empty home with petrol.

Judge Phillips said he purposely left partly filled cans of petrol in the bedrooms and lounge.

"That all shows constant, deliberate premeditation."

He lit the fire around 8pm, and the partly-filled cans exploded, some of which sent flames eight metres towards the nearest neighbouring houses.

"You weren't at that stage considering, in my view, suicide at all. You got in your car, ran and left."

At least one neighbour had to evacuate due to the fire risk, Judge Phillips said.

The Fire Service tried to put out the fire, but Scoullar's house was destroyed.

Two hours later, Scoullar drove back to the scene with a blood alcohol reading of 140mg - almost three times the legal limit.

He admitted the crime to police at the scene, Judge Phillips said.

The judge said the fire was clearly lit to cause emotional and financial harm to Scoullar's former partner and children, and had destroyed all their possessions.

"She will go into bankruptcy, there is no doubt about that in my mind.

"The impact of all of this on your children is yet to be discovered, and will not be discovered for a number of years.

"Their life has also been destroyed, really, by your action."

Scoullar had destroyed their "place of safety", Judge Phillips said.