An Illawarra arsonist was high on ice when he set fire to a disused building inside the former Dapto Bowling Club grounds, a court has heard.
Rhys Morrison was on parole and living with a friend nearby when he illegally entered the abandoned site on the afternoon of December 11 last year and set the 70-year-old house ablaze for no apparent reason.
Police documents tendered to Wollongong Local Court on Monday said Morrison had dropped a vehicle off at a tyre shop on Marshall Street before walking 500m up the road and into the overgrown bowling club site.
The 30-year-old, distinguishable in a black cap worn backwards, a black t-shirt, blue denim jeans pulled up high around his ankles and wearing Crocs on his feet, was captured on nearby CCTV cameras carrying a clear plastic bottle in his hand when he entered the single-storey building.
He emerged three minutes later, without the bottle.
The footage shows black smoke begin to pour out of the house a few seconds later and the building go up in flames within minutes.
Morrison then continued walking north and was seen passing a smash repairs business about five minutes later.
Meanwhile, emergency services were called to extinguish the fire, while Dapto High School had to be put into lockdown and all the classroom windows closed over fears of absestos-related smoke drifting west.
Investigators subsequently obtained CCTV footage of the incident and posted it on the NSW Police Force Facebook page seeking help to identify the culprit.
By January 13, the video had been viewed more than 50,000 times, however police had already received the information they needed care of an anonymous caller who phoned Crime Stoppers six days earlier.
Detectives reviewed photographs of Morrison they had on file and were confident of the match, especially after discovering Morrison had been living with an associate just 90 metres down the street from the site since his release on parole in June.
Their strong suspicions were further cemented when Morrison's ex-girlfriend positively identified him.
A warrant was issued for his arrest on January 18. He was caught two weeks later at a house in Unanderra while police were carrying out an unrelated search warrant.
Morrison was charged with a host of offences, the most serious being damaging more than $15,000 worth of property by fire.
He pleaded guilty to the charges in court on Tuesday, with defence lawyer Matt Russoniello saying his client had been under the influence of ice at the time.
The case was adjourned to Friday so a background report could be prepared ahead of sentencing.