Friends plead guilty to arson

TWO MARYBOROUGH mates who organised to have a $26,000 car taken to Wongi State Forest and burnt out have pleaded guilty in the Maryborough District Court to arson and attempted fraud.

Philip John Welch, 47, was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment with immediate parole, while Michelle Margaret Robinson, 41, was sentenced to two years wholly suspended imprisonment.

The court heard Welch moved to Maryborough in 2009 after the death of his wife, mother, father and niece. He brought with him his 2004 Holden ute, which was under finance with payments of $520 a month.

He also had a separate loan of $150 a week.

“Things got out of control financially very soon after his move to Queensland,” defence barrister Lars Falcongreen said.

“He tried to sell the car but couldn’t. He was in a financially dire situation.”

The court heard Robinson noticed in early January that Welch, her flatmate and friend, was “extremely stressed” by the situation.

She suggested to Welch that she “knew someone who could do something with the car for $1000”.

“The idea was raised about committing these offences and he foolishly agreed,” Mr Falcongreen said.

Welch then organised with the third party to have the car taken from the car park of a Maryborough hotel on the night of January 12.

Two days later it was found burnt out in a quarry in Wongi State Forest, about 15km north of Maryborough. Welch still owed $18,000.

There was no evidence to show the car had been broken into and a correctly coded key had been used to start the car.

The court heard neither Welch nor Robinson had any criminal history, both were co-operative with police and entered early guilty pleas.

In sentencing, Judge Hugh Botting said there was a need for general deterrence of insurance fraud.

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