Anthony Paul Flanders is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde kind of character.
On one side, he is a proud, intelligent Aboriginal man with such a talent for painting that some of his artworks have adorned the walls of regional art galleries and private homes.
Then there’s his dark side – a drug-abusing alcoholic whose turbulent upbringing and subsequent battle with the bottle has seen him bounce from jail cell to jail cell.
Unfortunately, it was this later side of Flanders’ character that reared its ugly head on the evening of June 8 last year while he was staying with his partner at his son-in-law’s home in Mt Warrigal.
Having downed a cask of wine, a horribly drunk Flanders resumed a topic of conversation that he and his partner had been arguing over for the past two days.
During the ensuing stoush, Flanders threatened to return to their home in Kempsey and make sure there would be “nothing left” for her to go home to, prompting the woman to leave the house.
A short time later, an angry and agitated Flanders took his partner’s suitcase outside and set it on fire, completely destroying the bag and the clothes inside.
He then deliberately set fire to both bedrooms inside the unit, destroying the furnishings and causing tens of thousands of dollars worth of structural damage.
Flanders left the house 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, to which he subsequently pleaded guilty.
In Wollongong District Court on Friday, Judge Andrew Heasler noted Flanders had a history of deprivation, having become a ward of the state at an early age before living under the guidance of his grandmother who was caring but ultimately an ineffective disciplinarian.
”It’s clear he’s an intelligent man but his life has been blighted by his background and lack of formal education,” Judge Haesler said.
It’s clear he’s an intelligent man but his life has been blighted by his background and lack of formal educationJudge Andrew Haesler
“[However] there was no premeditation to the offence – it appears to have been a spontaneous, angry reaction.”
Judge Haesler sentenced Flanders to four and a half years jail, with a non-parole period of three years.
He will become eligible for parole in June 2020.