A man who burnt down his Coniston home so his ex-wife wouldn't get it in their divorce says the house was still legally his, and therefore his to destroy.
Police found 75-year-old Krste Kovacevski in the granny flat of his Jutland Avenue home in the early hours of August 4 last year. He was with his dog, wearing a cardigan and was calmly watching his home go up in flames.
“He did not appear fazed that the house was burning down only metres away from him,” reported a police officer, who tried to move him on.
“I’m just watching it,” was Kovacevski’s reply.
Hours earlier, Kovacevski’s lawyer had lodged signed legal documents on his behalf, transferring ownership of the home to his ex-wife, in line with terms set by the Federal Circuit Court in a July 22 decision.
Kovacevski is now defending himself against a criminal charge stemming from the night, contending the home was still legally his, for at least another day.
Kovacevski was arrested after he admitted he had started the blaze. When questioned by firefighters, he pointed to a folder of divorce paperwork and said, "that's where it started".
At Wollongong Police station he explained he had been unable to sleep for the past four or five days. He became emotional and “nervous” after receiving a legal notice on August 3, giving him 40 hours to vacate his home.
“I got nowhere to go,” he told police. "So now I start packing ... things in a car. My pressure went up.”
“Where I can take it and where I gonna stay?
“I was in the garage. I looked around. I see the kerosene, grab it and light it up. That was it.
“I lost everything so I've got nothing to worry [about].”
Kovacevski packed minimal belongings in his car – a quilt, some blankets, some shirts and coats – before setting the home alight. He told police he poured kerosene through the hallway, outside the bathroom and in the loungeroom before setting a piece of paper alight and dropping it in the fuel.
The fire caused the roof of the house to cave in and threatened neighbouring properties, which were evacuated.
Kovacevski told police he had separated from his wife in 1991 and “she got everything” then, leaving him with “just [the] clothes on me”.
He said he had spent money renovating the house – his only property, owned outright - since moving in, in 1991, but had not insured the home or its contents.
Magistrate Mark Douglass considered the case at a hearing last month and was due to hand down a decision on Monday, however the matter was adjourned.
Kovacevski stands accused of damaging property by fire.
His solicitor told the court the case hinged entirely on the question of who owned the property at the time of the fire.
“And if he owned it, he has a right to burn his own property?” Magistrate Douglass asked police prosecutor Sean Thackray.
“Part of being the owner of property is doing what you like with it, I suppose. prosecution saying it could be joint owned,” Sgt Thackray replied.
The magistrate is to consider family court documents and aspects of property law before returning a decision. The matter returns to court next month.