Allansford man to fight insurance fire charges

AN Allansford man alleged to have torched his historic $1 million homestead for the insurance money yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges despite claims he made a full confessional statement to police.

Robert Conn, 68, now of Coburg, his former partner Roslyn Beevers, 53, now of Colac, and Rob Ivan Bucay, 53, of Preston, were yesterday all committed to stand trial by magistrate Ian von Einem after a three-day hearing.

All three have 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.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

The case was adjourned to a directions hearing at Geelong on March 7 but is expected to be heard in the Warrnambool County Court later this year.

Historic Allansford homestead Hopkins Hill was destroyed in a fire on Saturday, May 26, 2012.

Warrnambool Detective Acting Sergeant Richard Hughes told a committal hearing in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court that two days after being arrested on October 8, 2012, Mr Conn indicated he wanted to make a statement.

He said he sat down with Mr Conn for a number of hours to compile a statement and Mr Conn was then video recorded reading the statement.

“He said he wanted to make a full confessional statement for this and other matters,” he said.

“He initiated contact. He wanted to get things off his chest. It was like he had seen the light.”

In a statement tendered to the court, Detective Acting Sergeant Hughes recalled asking Mr Conn what he wanted to talk about.

“He said, ‘Richard, I have been a crook for most of my life and that no person in my family has lived past the age of 72. I might die in jail, it is time I told all’.”

Detective Acting Sergeant Hughes said when he first arrived at Hopkins Hill he deemed the fire suspicious and commenced Operation Dominant.

“Interestingly and strangely, I did not notice any obvious signs of grief, anger or sadness displayed from Conn and Beevers at the sight of having their historic home burnt to the ground in obvious suspicious circumstances. If anything, I noticed they appeared upbeat and very co-operative,” he said.

Insurance investigator Richard Shields also gave evidence in court yesterday. He said he talked to Mr Conn’s daughter Annette Conn, who made allegations about her father’s criminal history including claims he had received a suspended jail sentence on fraud charges.

In envidence via a video link Ms Conn said she knew the fire at Allansford was going to happen months before it did.

She said she was very close to Ms Beevers and talked to her up to 10 times a day. Ms Conn said she knew the fire at Hopkins Hill was a premeditated act and understood that Ms Beevers was to inherit $10 million when her mother died.

She said the essence of her conversations with Ms Beevers was that she and Mr Conn could not afford to keep the Allansford property and they intended to burn it down for the insurance money.

Ms Conn said she begged Ms Beevers not to get involved, to move her belongings out of Hopkins Hill and have nothing to do with an insurance claim.

She also said she met Mr Bucay at the Oak Park McDonald’s restaurant and in her tendered statement recalled he said: “I’m f...ed, I’m f...ity f...ed, I’ve done time before, I’m going to get five years for this.”

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