Two arrested over Coffs fire

Arrested: Coffs Clarence detectives this week charged two men in relation to a large scale factory fire in Coffs Harbour last July.
Arrested: Coffs Clarence detectives this week charged two men in relation to a large scale factory fire in Coffs Harbour last July.

TWO men, including a Coffs Harbour local, allegedly stood to gain financially after a Coffs Harbour sign writing business went up in flames last year.

Arrested this week, local man Terry James Brennan, 48, and a man extradited from Queensland, stand accused of serious crimes surrounding the alleged act of arson.

The pair have been charged by Coffs Harbour detectives who have spent four months investigating suspicious activity at Sign It Up, the O’Keefe Drive business destroyed by fire in July.

Yesterday after police executed a warrant on a Coffs Harbour removalist business, seizing financial documents, Brennan and Queensland man, Tukaha Whakatutu, 39, of Beenleigh, appeared in court.

Police allege Brennan and Whakatutu deceptively destroyed assets owned by the company before a fraudulent insurance claim worth $500,157 was paid to Brennan.

On April 24, the business was broken into with industrial machinery including printers, laminators and ovens destroyed by sledge hammer.

A number of computers were also destroyed and an amount of cash was reported stolen from a safe inside the premises.

Then on July 15, the premises and all its contents were razed by fire.

Police investigations established that the fire was suspicious and had been deliberately lit. Arresting Brennan locally, police extradited Whakatutu to NSW after he was arrested by Queensland Police at a caravan park on Tuesday.

He appeared in the Beenleigh Court on Wednesday where a warrant for his arrest in NSW was executed.

Detectives from Coffs Harbour travelled to Queensland and took him to Lismore where he was charged.

Among the charges he is facing are dishonestly destroy property by fire for gain, dishonestly destroy property, threaten to cause injury to prevent information being given to police and stalk intimidate and cause fear.

It’s alleged he committed the later offences in Coffs Harbour against witnesses helping police with their investigations. This week’s breakthrough came as part of a police operation, codenamed Nailon, which Coffs Harbour officers formed in October.

Brennan has been charged with dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, dishonestly destroy property for gain, money laundering, accessory before the fact to dishonestly destroy property by fire for gain, recklessly inflict grievous bodily harm in company, and hindering an investigation.

His case had been adjourned to Monday while Whakatutu is due to reappear in court on January 24. Both are yet to enter pleas.

Sign It Up Australia, a sign manufacturing company, had only been in business in Coffs Harbour for three months prior to the fire.

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