Man admits burning Dunedin home down after marriage fell apart

By Rob Kidd

A Dunedin man who burned down his family home days after his marriage fell apart can now be named.

Craig Lindsay Scoullar appeared before the Dunedin District Court this afternoon where he admitted a charge of arson and one of drink-driving.

The 55-year-old was granted interim suppression at his previous appearance after fears for his mental health, but that order lapsed today in front of Judge Kevin Phillips.

A summary of facts revealed that Scoullar, a Dunedin electrician, and his wife had been in a relationship for 20 years and lived together at a house in Mulford St in the suburb of Concord with their two children.

When the marriage broke down, the woman moved out with the children, taking some of their possessions and leaving the defendant on his own at the house.

On October 8 this year, Scoullar drove to a Green Island service station and filled several containers with petrol. Shortly afterwards, he bought matches and returned home.

Scoullar drunk 18 bottles of beer, police prosecutor Stewart Sluis told the court, and wrote a suicide note.

He then doused several rooms with petrol before setting the house alight.

The amount of the fuel in the house had an "explosive effect" with windows immediately shattering, some of which landed on the roof of a neighbouring property eight metres away.

The fire quickly engulfed the house - owned by the Scoullar Family Trust, according to court documents - with flames "billowing out" of the windows.

Scoullar sustained singed hair and burned clothing as he fled the property but was able to drive away from the blaze.

When he returned to the scene about 10pm officers, concerned about his state of intoxication, ordered him to undergo a breath test.

The defendant refused and was taken to the police station where a blood test gave a reading of 140mg - nearly three times the legal limit.

Mr Sluis said the house was insured but that policy was void because of Scoullar's actions.

The maximum penalty for arson was 14 years in prison.

Scoullar will be sentenced next year and was remanded in custody until then.

- Otago Daily Times

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