17 December 2023

Alleged arsonist accused of starting fires near homes in bushfire season

| Albert McKnight
matthew scott hagan

Matthew Scott Hagan, 34, is accused of starting five fires around a southern Canberra suburb. Photo: Facebook.

An alleged firebug failed in his attempt to get out of jail for Christmas after he was accused of lighting fires around southern Canberra at the start of the bushfire season by using a petrol-filled water pistol.

Matthew Scott Hagan was arrested after police and ACT Fire and Rescue raced around Isabella Plains in the early hours of 25 October 2023 to put out five fires.

The first was about one metre wide and was close to the front door of a resident’s home, court documents say, while the second was 20 metres by 10 metres and was near residential buildings on Moonbi Crescent and Johnson Drive.

Fire and Rescue described this fire as suspicious due to its irregularities.

Another fire burnt a TV cabinet that was near a house, then two more had to be extinguished outside homes on Parrabel Place and Bucknel Circuit.

READ ALSO Man offered woman a lift home before allegedly trying to sexually assault her

Shortly afterwards, police found Hagan on a nearby street, standing over the top of a lighter and with a container of what he claimed was mouthwash in his pocket.

Police said both he and this container smelled like petrol, but he told them he had been doing mechanical work on a motorcycle.

Later, police found closed-circuit television footage, which they alleged showed two men, one of whom matches the description of Hagan, walking through Isabella Plains.

It is alleged Hagan can be seen using a water pistol to spray a liquid onto the front lawns of homes, then using a lighter to set the liquid on fire.

The 34-year-old from Kambah had been in custody for over 50 days before he applied to be released on bail in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (14 December), which was opposed by the prosecution.

His lawyer, Legal Aid’s Jeremy Banwell, partly relied on how the Christmas break was fast approaching when arguing for his client to be released.

Mr Banwell also said Hagan’s grandfather was ill and it was not clear how long he would live for, while his client wanted to attend rehabilitation and could work in the community as a removalist.

He said his client had written a “heartfelt letter” to the court about how he wanted to be there for his partner and children.

READ ALSO Man bit part of his cousin’s finger off after being called a ‘witch’

However, Magistrate Glenn Theakson thought there was a risk of him endangering the safety of others if he was released from custody.

He said the Territory was entering the bushfire season and for some unknown reason, Hagan appeared to have been allegedly walking around a suburb lighting fires.

He refused bail. Hagan turned around and raised his eyebrows at a woman who was present in the courtroom’s gallery, a woman who was later seen putting her head in her hands.

Hagan has been charged with single counts of causing a bushfire and damaging property as well as four counts of lighting an unauthorised fire and six counts of leaving a fire without extinguishing it.

These charges were adjourned for a pre-hearing mention on 15 January. He has pleaded not guilty.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.