18 October 2021

Arsonist burnt lover's letters before causing $380,000 damage to government-owned home

| Albert McKnight
Samantha Gaye Chatfield

Samantha Gaye Chatfield, 30, has been sentenced for a charge of arson. Photo: Instagram.

An arsonist who set fire to her Housing ACT home causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage is again living in government housing.

Samantha Gaye Chatfield, a 30-year-old with the name ‘Thor’ tattooed across her throat, avoided spending any more time behind bars when she was sentenced in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (15 October).

According to Justice Richard Refshauge, she had begun dating her sister’s partner Thor Sven Kristiansen. This had a “really bad effect on the family”, he said.

He said this was a toxic relationship and she was afraid of him – Kristiansen has a long criminal history with over 100 convictions and was very jealous of her previous relationships.

READ ALSO Woman admits to recklessly causing damage to her government house by fire

Chatfield began to lease a government townhouse in Denman Prospect and Kristiansen eventually moved in. On 6 May 2020, they had an argument and she decided to destroy letters and photos she had from a previous relationship, Justice Refshauge said.

She put them in a box and set them on fire. While these flames didn’t spread out of her courtyard, at about the same time, she also started a fire between the home’s kitchen and lounge room and this blaze spread out of control.

Samantha Gaye Chatfield, 30, and a supporter hide their faces when they leave the ACT Courts on Friday. Photo: Albert McKnight

As people nearby ran to help, Kristensen arrived and yelled at her. She got into the Ford Falcon he was driving and they drove off. Emergency services arrived when the home was visibly alight.

The fire caused $378,000 in damage, including collapsed ceilings and smoke damage to rooms. Investigators found two areas where a fire had started, a fire-damaged jerry can and the smell of ignitable liquid in the house.

“Ms Chatfield intended to burn papers and photographs, not the house,” Justice Refshauge said.

READ ALSO Jail cell arsonist sentenced over fire lit during Black Summer

He said Chatfield had said the fire “flared up” when she sprayed water onto it. He said she may have used the jerry can to do so, which could have contained some accelerant.

He said it was clear Chatfield had suffered from “considerable disadvantage” in her life, as well as “significant loss and grief”. She also used to be dependent on drugs, especially methamphetamine.

The mother-of-three ended her relationship with 32-year-old Kristiansen earlier this year, had repaired the relationship with her sister and was back living in government housing.

Chatfield now accepted responsibility for the blaze, Justice Refshauge said, although earlier she had said she “pleaded guilty to just get it over and done with”.

She pleaded guilty to a charge of arson and was sentenced to 18 months’ jail to be served via an intensive corrections order in the community. She had already spent 65 days in custody over the crime.

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