12 January 2023

Man allegedly threw petrol on police officer, tried to set him on fire

| Albert McKnight
Law Court

Police have accused a man of assaulting a woman and trying to set a constable on fire. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A man accused of throwing petrol over a police officer and repeatedly trying to set him on fire with a lighter during a violent struggle has been refused bail.

Court documents allege that during the struggle, the officer could even feel burning sensations to his arm from the cigarette lighter being ignited by John William Nocen.

The 43-year-old allegedly went to a woman’s home in south Canberra to collect some of his belongings on Tuesday night (10 January).

Holding a torch, he allegedly told her, “I wonder how much this would hurt if I punched you in the face with it”, before using it to hit her on the leg. He also punched her in the head.

The woman told him to leave, but he allegedly went around to the back of her house and kicked in the kitchen window while she was standing on the other side. The window allegedly shattered and some glass became stuck in her arm.

Mr Nocen also allegedly punched her in the stomach before leaving the house, saying, “I’ll just f-ing burn everything then”.

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When police arrived soon afterwards, they allegedly saw him with a cigarette lighter and a jerry can in a small shed in the backyard, just before he set alight petrol covering the shed’s floor.

A constable tried to pull Mr Nocen out of the shed, but he allegedly resisted and poured petrol over the officer in the ensuing struggle.

He allegedly punched or elbowed the officer repeatedly and used the lighter to try to set him on fire several times.

Mr Nocen was arrested and applied for bail, which was opposed by the prosecution, in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (12 January).

His Legal Aid lawyer said he had no criminal history and the allegations occurred in the context of a mental health crisis.

She said he had an acquired brain injury from an aneurysm in 2013 and hadn’t been able to work since then.

He also had a stent in his head, his lawyer said, and was worried that if he went into custody, he might die if he was assaulted there.

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But Magistrate James Stewart said the allegations were “very serious to say the least”, and refused bail.

He was a very real risk to himself, the woman and any more police officers that might be required to attend, the magistrate said.

Mr Nocen did not enter pleas to charges of intentionally using petrol in circumstances likely to cause a person grievous bodily harm, using a flammable substance in circumstances likely to endanger human life, three counts of assault, damaging property and resisting a public official.

The Gordon man faces a maximum of 13 years’ jail on the first charge. The matter was adjourned to 3 February.

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