Man not guilty of attempted arson of housing complex

A LAUNCESTON public housing complex may have briefly caught fire last year but not at the hands of Mark Leonard Thomas, a jury has decided. 

Yesterday, in the Launceston Supreme Court, the Ravenswood man was found not guilty of attempted arson of Thyne House in April 2012.

Fire crews found a gas bottle in the communal laundry and a large scorch mark on the wall. 

The fire was extinguished by the sprinkler systems before it could spread through the facility, which housed 28 people that night.  

The Crown's circumstantial case relied heavily on the account of Mr Thomas's then Facebook friend and resident of Thyne House Kirsty Pitcher. 

Ms Pitcher told the court a drunk Mr Thomas visited her on the night of the fire. He briefly left her room with a lighter and returned saying, ``have a listen to this'', she said. 

She claimed she then heard a ``sizzling'' sound, a pop and then fire alarms. 

But under questioning Ms Pitcher became confused about the details and admitted not being sure about large parts of her evidence.  

In the witness box Mr Thomas admitted to taking the gas bottle from the courtyard and putting it in the laundry but said he had nothing to do with the fire. He said his intention had been to steal the gas bottle.    

Forensic evidence found no finger prints or DNA on the gas bottle. 

The jury took two hours to deliver its verdict. 

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