A 27-year-old man charged with 17 counts of lighting bushfires in the Northern Territory’s Top End was out on bail at the time of the alleged arson attacks, Darwin Local Court has heard.
- NT Police executed search warrants on two properties at Darwin River yesterday
- Accused man Mike Holden faced Darwin Local Court this morning
- Lawyers for Mr Holden said they will be applying for bail this afternoon
Bushfires raged through the Darwin rural area in August and September last year, when dry and windy weather conditions saw hundreds of hectares of orchards and bushland fall prey to flames.
Alleged arsonist Mike Holden appeared in the docks of Darwin Local Court this morning wearing a tattered black T-shirt and with an electronic monitoring bracelet strapped to his ankle.
He was arrested yesterday after search warrants were executed at two properties in Darwin River, after which he was charged and refused bail.
‘All suspicious bushfires will be investigated’
In a statement last night, NT Police said Mr Holden was arrested as part of an operation set up last September to investigate “suspicious bushfires occurring in the greater Darwin area during the year”.
“NT Police want to reassure the community that all suspicious bushfires will be investigated,” the statement said.
Prosecutor David Morters told the court Holden had been bailed over previous offences in January 2019.
Mr Morters said the accused has a matter listed for trial in the NT Supreme Court in March this year over 24 counts of indictment.
“They are sex offences and they are serious offences,” he said.
Mr Holden’s legal team applied for bail but it was refused in Darwin Local Court this afternoon.
Judge Alan Woodcock said he allegedly “committed numerous, serious offences while on very strict bail … [and] that’s of grave concern.”
“If [electronic monitoring] data is accurate, it’s a very powerful [prosecution] case,” said Mr Woodcock.
Bushfires lit over eight months
In a press conference this morning, NT Police said the 17 bushfires allegedly lit by Mr Holden were between January and September last year and were focused on the Darwin River area.
“Causing a bushfire … carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment — [it’s] a very serious offence,” Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Malogorski said.
There were no “dwellings destroyed” in the fires allegedly lit by Mr Holden, he said.
“There was substantial vegetation property damaged … there was minor property damaged, and that matter is still being investigated.”
Operation Paringa was set up to investigate the bushfires last year and, according to Acting Superintendent Malogorski, had been a “protracted and complex investigation”.