17 May 2024

'Fireball' erupted from Giralang arson attack on sleeping women's home, two men arrested

| Albert McKnight

The alleged offender responsible for the arson attack in Giralang on 13 October 2023 (left) and the green Ford Mondeo that was believed to be driven to the property. Photos: ACT Policing.

Two men have been arrested over an arson attack that sent a “fireball” up from a north Canberra home, damaged the house and endangered the lives of the people inside it. However, the main alleged offender remains at large.

The home on Gidjili Place, Giralang, had already been repeatedly targeted in attacks by unknown perpetrators before the fire on 13 October 2023, the ACT Magistrates Court heard.

Two residents of the Sydney suburb of Greenacre, 23-year-old Ayman Bassal and 41-year-old Fadi Marjan, were charged with aiding or abetting arson with an intent to endanger life when they faced the court on Friday (17 May), although neither is alleged to have been the person who started the blaze.

The pair and a third person, the unidentified main offender, are alleged to have agreed to endanger the life of someone who lived at the home, Magistrate Ian Temby said.

Mr Bassal allegedly had a logistical role by fraudulently buying a green Ford Mondeo from a car yard in Belmore, NSW, which the main offender used to drive to Canberra to commit the offence, as well as talking with the others over the phone and an encrypted device.

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In the early hours of 13 October, the main offender drove a green Ford Mondeo to the home in Giralang, covered his face with a mask, climbed onto the home and set fire to the roof using an accelerant.

Magistrate Temby said “a large fireball” engulfed the roof, and the blaze burned intensely, illuminating the street. He said the house was damaged, and “a great deal of distress” was caused to the people inside it.

Fortunately, the fire was put out without any of the occupants, two women who had been asleep when the blaze began, being physically harmed.

Mr Marjan is alleged to have bought the accelerant used to start the fire from Bunnings, but while he was involved in meetings and messages with the others, he only appeared to provide “some measure of moral support” to the main offender, Magistrate Temby said.

Both Mr Marjan, who works as a butcher at Marjan Butchery in Sydney, and Mr Bassal, a driver for Prime Limousine Group, applied for bail on Friday, which was opposed by the prosecution.

Their lawyer, Oussama Elfawal from CrimCorp Defence Lawyers, said they didn’t know the alleged victim of the arson attack, and there was nothing to suggest what the actual conversations that the defendants had were.

He said both would abide by strict bail conditions if it was granted.

Prosecutor Samuel Carmichael said the motive for the arson attack “seems shrouded in mystery”, while the alleged victim had been repeatedly targetted by similar offences, although it was not clear if all the offences were connected.

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When discussing Mr Bassal’s application, Magistrate Temby said he was concerned the “job” as alleged, being to carry out arson to endanger life, “has not been successful”.

He said the risks posed to the alleged victim were too high and refused bail.

Regarding Mr Marjan, the magistrate thought his alleged role was less than Mr Bassal’s. He also thought the risks in relation to telecommunications that he saw for the latter were not as severe in Mr Marjan’s case.

Bail was granted on numerous conditions, including providing a $50,000 surety, living in Sydney and not entering the ACT except for court.

Both cases were adjourned to 13 June. No pleas were entered.

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