Man pleads guilty to deliberately lighting Mt Warrigal house on fire

Intent: Anthony Flanders has admitted in court he deliberately set his partner's son's Chapman Avenue unit on fire in a drunken rage. The blaze caused thousands of dollars in damage and property loss. Picture: Robert Peet
Intent: Anthony Flanders has admitted in court he deliberately set his partner's son's Chapman Avenue unit on fire in a drunken rage. The blaze caused thousands of dollars in damage and property loss. Picture: Robert Peet

A 52-year-old man charged with deliberately setting a Mt Warrigal home on fire earlier this year initially tried to blame the blaze on a cigarette, a court has heard.

Anthony Paul Flanders repeatedly denied police suggestions he intentionally lit a fire inside the Chapman Street unit in a drunken rage on the evening of June 8, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage and property loss.

He told police during an interview the following day that ash from his cigarette could have started the blaze as he’d been smoking in one of the rooms before the fire.

However, in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday, Flanders confessed to deliberately lighting fires in both bedrooms inside the unit.

An agreed set of facts said the unit belonged to Flanders’ girlfriend’s son, and that Flanders, the woman and her disabled brother were on holiday from Kempsey and staying in the home at the time.

The court heard Flanders and the woman had been arguing in the days leading up to the fire about the woman wanting to move to the Illawarra and Flanders at one stage told her he would “beat [her] home” and she “wouldn’t have a house and nothing to go to”.

Both the woman and her son left the house on the afternoon of June 8 – the woman due to Flanders’ level of intoxication and her son to meet a friend – leaving Flanders and the disabled brother at the unit.

Sometime later, a drunk and angry Flanders took his partner’s suitcase outside and set it on fire, completely destroying the bag and the clothes inside.

Around 6.30pm, Flanders picked up a cigarette lighter and walked into one of the bedrooms while telling his girlfriend’s brother “I’m going to burn this place down”.

Flanders then lit fires in both the bedrooms and exited the unit, leaving his brother-in-law, who relies on a walker for mobility, inside the house alone.

The man was eventually assisted outside by a neighbour and Flanders where paramedics treated him for smoke inhalation.

I’m going to burn this place down

Anthony Paul Flanders

The court heard all furnishings and property inside the home was completely destroyed while the unit itself sustained substantial fire and smoke damage.

Meantime, Flanders left the scene and walked to the train station. He journeyed to Sydney, then to Kempsey, where he was arrested by police and charged with damaging property by fire.

He will remain in custody ahead of his sentencing next month.