Kilbirnie storage fire result of argument - Crown

  • Breaking
  • 30/11/2014

A damaging fire at a Wellington storage warehouse was lit following a quarrel with the man accused and the man who rented the unit where it started, the Crown says.

The judge-alone trial into the Kiwi Self-Storage fire began in the Wellington High Court before Justice Simon France this morning, and is expected to last around two weeks.

The man, who has interim name suppression until at least tomorrow, has denied the arson charge.

Fire crews took around 24 hours to put out the blaze at the storage facility in the Wellington suburb of Kilbirnie on April 4. A digger was used to expose part of the roof and walls so firefighters could continue to put out the fire.

Police estimated the cost of the fire to be more $8 million.

More than 300 people were affected by the fire which ripped through the building, destroying sentimental possessions, bronze artworks, a large record collection and a number of Oscar statues for Lord of the Rings.

The building did not have a sprinkler system.

Crown prosecutor Sally Carter said the fact the fire was deliberately lit and caused damage wasn't the concern, "the issue is about whether it was [the accused] who did it".  

She said the fire started in storage unit used by someone the accused had had a falling out with. The victim's pin number was used to enter the facility and the padlocks on the unit had been unlocked, she said.

While there was a lot of circumstantial evidence, including a cap belonging to the accused which was found at the scene with his DNA on it, looked at together it pointed to the man as the person responsible, Ms Carter argued.

CCTV images were released of the man following the fire, which Ms Carter said was the accused wearing a "significant amount of clothing to bulk up his appearance".

The man's lawyer Douglas Ewen said the issue was about the identity of the person who set the fire.

Resident manager Kaye Brotherton told the court she was asleep at the time of the fire around 12.30am, but was woken up by her daughter after she heard three or four bangs, then an alarm about 10 minutes later.

The affected building had been demolished and the company is in the process of designing and building a new one which could cost up to $3 million.

The trial continues.

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