Woman remanded over alleged arson

By Myles Peterson

A woman, 34, appeared before Shepparton Magistrates’ Court yesterday facing aggravated burglary and arson charges.

The court heard Jessica Briggs, of no fixed address, allegedly started a fire on Sunday about 2.35pm in the yard of her former partner’s house on Wilmot Rd in Shepparton.

Police said a patrol discovered the fire, which posed a considerable danger to the occupants of that house and nearby properties.

Detective Senior Constable Paul Van Emmerik told the court a witness overheard Ms Briggs stating, ‘‘There are people in the house and I am burning them alive.’’

Det Sen Const Van Emmerik said the house had two occupants, one alleged to be Ms Briggs’ former partner.

The fire allegedly caused about $5000 damage to the side of the house, a carport and a car before the Country Fire Authority controlled it.

Police said no-one was injured.

Prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Kevin Taggert presented five charges to the court, including one count of aggravated burglary allegedly committed on the same day of the fire.

The court heard that about 1.30am on Sunday, Ms Briggs entered a property and stole the car keys and wallet of its sleeping occupant, a man aged 68.

Det Sen Const Van Emmerik alleged a stolen car driven by Ms Briggs collided with a fence, causing $5000 in damage, before Ms Briggs exited the vehicle and left the scene.

Det Sen Const Van Emmerik said two credit cards stolen from the property were yet to be recovered.

Defence counsel Karyn Werner cross-examined Det Sen Const Van Emmerik at length, disputing the alleged stolen car had been driven dangerously.

‘‘You’ve given evidence that the driving was deplorable, dangerous and reckless ... the car was reversed a short distance into the fence and stopped,’’ Ms Werner said.

Ms Werner also raised a history of violence and a 10-year intervention order between Ms Briggs and her former partner, claiming Ms Briggs was usually the victim in a total of 25 previous matters.

Ms Werner also said Ms Briggs had suffered injuries shortly before the alleged arson, including being strangled.

‘‘All she wants is to stay away from this person and have him stay away from her,’’ Ms Werner said.

Magistrate Peter Mithen said he was not satisfied Ms Briggs met the criteria to be bailed, despite it being her first time in custody.

‘‘These charges are serious, this is not contested by either side. I have to consider Ms Briggs’ prior offences,’’ Mr Mithen said.

‘‘It is possible a custodial sentence will be applied.

‘‘I am not satisfied exceptional circumstances have been established ... I am satisfied she is in fact an unacceptable risk.’’

Mr Mithen remanded Ms Briggs into custody to reappear this month.