WITNESSES yesterday told court that former Allansford man Robert Conn warned he was going to torch his $1 million homestead and his partner told a friend he admitted doing it after a fire destroyed their home.
Mr Conn, 68, now of Coburg, his former partner Roslyn Beevers, 53, now of Colac, and Rob Ivan Bucay, 53, of Melbourne, are appearing in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court for a committal hearing.
They have all been charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to defraud.
Mr Conn and Ms Beevers are also charged with attempting to obtain property by deception and attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception.
Historic Allansford homestead Hopkins Hill was destroyed in a fire on Saturday, May 26, 2012. Retired Australian navy engineer John Rees yesterday told the court he had been friends with Mr Conn for 20 years.
He said he performed maintenance work for Mr Conn and was “gobsmacked” when his friend said he was going to burn down his house.
Mr Rees said his first involvement with police and the case was when an officer showed him a document with his own forged signature.
He said when Mr Conn was in jail on remand after the fire, he helped Ms Beevers move out of a property at Exford which took many days.
Mr Rees said he helped Ms Beevers as a friend, was not paid for his assistance and denied having a relationship with Ms Beevers.
Retired secretary Dianna Young said she knew the previous owners of Hopkins Hill as well as being friends with Mr Conn and Ms Beevers.
She said Mr Conn’s daughter Annette rang her and told her to tell the previous owners to take legal action.
“She said the next thing is he’ll burn down the house. He has done it before,” Ms Young said.
Ms Young said Ms Beevers stayed with her and her husband in mid-2012 while she was ending her relationship with Mr Conn.
“She said ‘Bob told me that he had the place burnt down. The person that did it was Robbo’,” Ms Young said. “She said she did not know. I’m not saying I believed her. I thought she knew all along.”
Ms Young said Ms Beevers told her that break-ins reported to police at Hopkins Hill didn’t happen and Mr Conn planted syringes and lit fires around a lake when the couple were supposedly not home.
Forensic expert Paul Murrihy said he had compiled a report for Allianz Insurance and noted the odour of flammable liquid in two areas during an examination of the fire scene.