24 July 2022

Former cleaner jailed for using 'makeshift flamethrower' to assault two women

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

Lauren Freshwater, 36, has been sentenced to four-and-a-half months’ jail. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A former cleaner with a long history of violence has been sentenced to jail for using a can of deodorant and a cigarette lighter as a “makeshift flamethrower” to assault two women.

On Friday (15 July), the ACT Magistrates Court heard one of the women had been sitting on a couch when 36-year-old Lauren Freshwater punched her in the head multiple times.

Magistrate James Stewart said she then did something “quite disturbing”, which also “must have been totally frightening”.

He said she picked up a can of deodorant and a lighter, sprayed the deodorant and ignited the spray, “causing something akin to a flamethrower”, then pointed it towards both of her victims.

One woman ran out screaming for help and police arrived to defuse the situation.

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Magistrate Stewart said Freshwater had an “extraordinary history for violence”, which included numerous assaults, and what was striking about her criminal past was the repetition of the offences, the harshness of the penalties she received, then the reductions of sentences in the district court.

“She is the most successful appellant that I think I’ve seen in my career, but it’s clear that it’s done her no good,” he said.

A message needed to be sent to her to “stop assaulting people,” he said, or she’d spend the rest of her life in jail.

“It’s a pretty simple message,” he said.

Prosecutor Verity Griffin argued there was no justification or explanation for using the “makeshift flamethrower”.

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Kat Duffy of Andrew Byrnes Law Group said her client had battled with drugs and alcohol for many years, and this behaviour was due to her substance use.

She said Freshwater had worked as a cleaner for holiday homes on the coast, but that job had ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freshwater pleaded guilty to two counts of common assault and was convicted.

She was sentenced to four-and-a-half months’ jail on the first count, backdated to her arrest in March 2022, and placed on a 12-month good behaviour order for the second count.

“I’ve given you a pretty easy run on that count to help you,” Magistrate Stewart told her.

Due to time served, she will be released from jail on 20 July.

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