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Mystery man, two big bangs, no luck for arsonist

Eunice Briones was jailed after being accused of arranging the fire and claiming insurance money.
Eunice Briones was jailed after being accused of arranging the fire and claiming insurance money. PIXABAY

A MIDDLE-AGED mum who paid a mystery man to torch her house had an appeal against her jail term extinguished.

Eunice Briones was charged with setting fire to the house in Yuleba, east of Roma, and trying to dishonestly get insurance money.

After a Roma District Court trial, she was found guilty on each charge and given three and a half years' jail.

Although four witnesses gave evidence the house was deliberately torched, Briones appealed against her convictions and wanted to appeal against her sentences.

In a new Court of Appeal judgment, Justice Philip McMurdo said Briones was 50 when the fire broke out in March 2014.

Justice McMurdo said someone living in the same street as Briones "smelt fuel and noticed the light of the fire, coming through a window”.

"She saw a man running fast to a car which was then driven to the corner of the street where it stopped.

"The witness said there was then a 'big bang' from the house, before the car drove away and a second bang occurred.”

Briones was born in the Philippines and a friend said she planned to buy a property in that country with her adult children.

She bought the Yuleba house in 2011 for $65,000, insuring it for $350,000.

In 2014, she increased the house insurance to $400,000 and more than doubled contents insurance to $50,000.

Prosecutors claimed Briones paid thousands of dollars to a man named Ali Mahdi Hameed to torch the house.

On 9 April, 2014, a person of that name left Australia from Perth, returning a fortnight later.

But in a police interview four months later, Briones said she did not know where Hameed was or how to contact him.

After the blaze, police found sentimental items, including hundreds of photos, in Briones' car.

Her citizenship papers were there, too.

But Briones argued there was no evidence of an arsonist.

She advanced other arguments, saying she was not in financial trouble.

"She says... she was intending to buy property overseas, but with a personal loan and money from her son and her brother,” Justice McMurdo said.

He found none of Briones' arguments persuasive.

"This was a strong circumstantial case, [she] procured the man called Hameed to set fire to her house. If the arson charge was proved, the attempted fraud was also proved.”

Justice Walter Sofronoff and Justice James Douglas agreed. The appeal was dismissed.

-NewsRegional

Topics:  arson brisbane court eunice briones fire house fire insurance fraud roma yuleba


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