Elderly Illawarra firestarter Krste Kovacevski has been taken away to a jail cell after an appeals court found the case against him “couldn’t get any worse”.
Kovacevski burned a Jutland Avenue, Coniston property to the ground in August 2016, hours after he signed it over to his elderly ex-wife in line with family court orders.
In September he was ordered to spend two years in jail, with a non-parole period of six months. But he appealed the sentence, exploring various legal loopholes in a bid to be cleared of wrongdoing.
On Friday morning, after hearing the Yugoslavian-born 76-year-old refuse to express any remorse, Judge Andrew Haesler stopped just short of issuing a ‘Parker warning’ – an indication that a judge is intending to increase, not decrease, sentence.
“I don’t see how you can make it any worse for Mr Kovacevski by asking him questions,” he told the Crown prosecutor.
“[He’s made] no offer of compensation … no insight, no understanding.
“I don’t want to deprive the Crown of their opportunity, but it’s shooting fish in a barrel.
“His evidence is he gave a large sum of money to lawyers who’ve given him certain advice. He’s turned on them, turned on everyone and he‘s destroyed the property so they wouldn’t get to win – wouldn’t ‘get a lottery’, despite court orders.”
The court heard Kovacevski and his wife, Naumka, arrived in Australia in 1961. He worked at the steelworks as an overhead crane operator for 42 years.
He said he had not spoken to Naumka since they separated in 1991.
In 2016 he spent $180,000 renovating the Jutland Avenue property, where he lived alone.
In Friday’s evidence, Kovacevski said he paid $100,000 to his legal team during family court proceedings, before he was ordered to relinquish the house.
“I heard the order … but they didn’t take any of my stuff [into account] – what I said, what I spent, what I work,” he said.
“I paid them [lawyers] $100,000 and they work for somebody else.”
Asked how he felt about what he had done he said, “stressed. Because I lost everything. People, the law, let me down. They prey on me. They won the lottery. I work all my life to live in a car and they won the lottery.”
The court considered tendered psychological reports.
Kovacevski’s lawyer argued he suffered an intellectual impairment.
“He’s not taking responsibility for what he did, but that’s entirely consistent with his intellectual function,” he said.
But the judge rejected this, finding only evidence of “a cognitive impairment”.
“A geriatrician or a neurologist may be able to explain what to the [untrained] observer is simply blind stubbornness and refusal to take advice.”
Through his lawyer, Kovacevski had earlier argued that the notice police issued to charge him used the words “property of” when it should have said “belonging to”.
He had several colourful encounters with reporters as his case progressed. In September he exposed himself to a WIN camera crew.
Outside court on Friday, he stubbed his cigarette out on the microphone of a 9 News Illawarra reporter. He uttered a few threatening words to his son-in-law just before he was taken into custody.
He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of six months. He has been ordered to pay $100,000 compensation – the jurisdictional limit.
Mrs Kovacevska is expected to pursue the remainder of the cost of rebuilding the house through the civil courts.