Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Man denies starting Wellington shed fire

Smoke billowing from the Kiwi Storage facility as firefighters struggle to control the blaze. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Smoke billowing from the Kiwi Storage facility as firefighters struggle to control the blaze. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A man has pleaded not guilty to arson after a huge fire destroyed part of a Wellington storage facility.

The Kiwi Self Storage building in Lyall Bay went up in flames on Friday two weeks ago, destroying and damaging items stored there.

A 34-year-old man appeared in Wellington District Court today charged with arson.

He was arrested by police late yesterday afternoon following an investigation which involved CCTV footage and help from the public.

The man stood with his head down, his arms crossed or leaning against the dock, as he appeared in court today.

Through his lawyer, Douglas Ewen, he pleaded not guilty to the charge and elected trial by jury.

Judge Kevin Glubb granted the man interim name suppression. He also suppressed the reasons Mr Ewen had sought suppression for his client.

The man was remanded in custody until June.

The man also pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of driving while disqualified.

Judge Glubb sentenced the man on the spot to one month in prison and disqualified him from driving for nine months. He noted it was the man's ninth disqualified driving offence.

Watch: Fire near Wellington airport


At the end of the hearing, the man said "thank you, your honour'' and appeared to mouth a kiss at his sole supporter in the small courtroom.

Police earlier said officers had searched the man's property and seized a car believed to be relevant to the investigation.

Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Ferguson said an investigation team had been engaging with the community and collecting evidence and information.

An alleged offender had also been captured on CCTV footage at the storage unit and appeared to have changed clothing to avoid detection.

"It is pleasing to be able provide the large number of victims who have lost many valuable items, both in the monetary and sentimental sense, with the reassurance that someone will be held accountable for this arson,'' Mr Ferguson said.

Police were still seeking sightings of a light blue 1994 Daihatsu Charade which was in the suburbs of Johnsonville and Kilbirnie, particularly around the storage unit, between 12am and 1am on Friday, April 4.

"We continue to seek the public's assistance with this investigation as I believe they will hold valuable information about the movements of the offender on the night of the fire,'' Mr Ferguson said.


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