Arson-accused in custody over Allansford blaze

A FORMER policeman has been charged with arson and remanded in custody until February next year after allegedly paying someone to torch his $1 million Allansford homestead.

Robert Conn, 67, of Grauers Road, Allansford, was refused bail yesterday after the court heard he was the subject of  several police investigations, including an alleged bid to kill his wealthy mother-in-law.

The court was told that Werribee police were investigating an incident where Mr Conn and his partner had visited her mother at a nursing home between August 19 and September 1, 2010. 

His partner is her mother’s sole beneficiary.

Detective Senior Constable Richard Hughes said the elderly woman was discovered unresponsive shortly after Mr Conn and his partner left and tests showed she had ingested anti-depressant medication.

Warrnambool magistrate Jonathan Klestadt heard that the major fraud squad was involved in four separate investigations involving Mr Conn.

He is a former police officer who was pensioned out of the force many years ago.

Detective Senior Constable Hughes said a large fire destroyed a $1 million homestead at Grauers Road, Allansford, on the evening of May 26 this year.

Detective Senior Constable Hughes said police would allege that Mr Conn paid a third party to destroy the home by fire in an effort to claim $1 million from two insurance companies.

He said Mr Conn had lodged claims for insurance.

The court was told that Mr Conn and his partner attended the Geelong Village Gold Class cinema on the evening of the fire in an effort to provide a perfect alibi.

It was also alleged that Mr Conn had made a number of fictitious burglary reports in relation to his Allansford home before the fire and another on May 31 after the blaze. 

The reason for those reports was to take the pressure off Mr Conn and to deceive police into believing Mr Conn was being harassed by criminals, the court heard.

Police had about 2100 telephone intercepts which also linked Mr Conn with the man they allege started the fire, the court heard.

Mr Conn paid $1.25 million for the property in late 2010.

However, he still owed the previous owner $540,000, it was alleged.

The court heard that Mr Conn was considered a flight risk and there were fears that he would harm his partner if granted bail.

Mr Conn said it was ridiculous to suggest that he could harm his partner.

He said he had five children and eight grandchildren and desperately wanted to attend a christening this weekend.

Refusing bail, Mr Klestadt said the police appeared to have a strong case in relation to the arson charge which, if found proven, could result in a significant prison sentence.

The Allansford homestead before fire destroyed the property.

The Allansford homestead before fire destroyed the property.