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"Trio of deception" give testimony against accused: Lawyer

FIRE AFTERMATH: The mobile dental van destroyed in a fire at Gatton State School.
FIRE AFTERMATH: The mobile dental van destroyed in a fire at Gatton State School. Photo Tom Threadingham Gatton

THREE convicted arsonists, who have testified against an alleged fourth co-offender, have been dubbed the "trio of deception" by a defence lawyer.

The trial of Zachary Dean Clark, 19, entered its second day yesterday.

Clark has pleaded not guilty to two counts of arson, and two counts of wilful damage which occurred during what Crown prosecutor Matthew Le Grand dubbed a night of "alcohol-fuelled destruction".

He has been accused of being a party to a fire, lit by co-offender Corey Andrew McCutcheon, inside a dental van at the Gatton State School, which spread to nearby classrooms on the night of October 30, 2012.

Mr Le Grand has alleged Clark encouraged and supported McCutcheon, BJ Alan Denton and Christopher Bernard Walker in the commission of the arsons and the damage of two cars, one before the fires at Gatton McDonald's and one outside the fire station.

However, under cross-examination by defence lawyer Peter Sloane, Denton, Walker and McCutcheon all admitted to lying in statements to police.

Mr Sloane said this showed the evidence of the three was unreliable.

"They're the trio of deception this lot," he said.

However, Mr Le Grand said Clark, who has pleaded guilty to breaking into the school block and the dental van, and the wilful damage of a railway boom gate after the offences, was "up to his neck" in offending with the others on the night.

"Before they've lit the fire he's repeatedly shown dedication to the group," Mr Le Grand said.

He pointed to the burglaries Clark had admitted to, stating the arsons "didn't happen in a vacuum".

Denton told the court on Tuesday, he and Clark had sprayed a fire extinguisher for "no purpose".

He then contradicted himself to Mr Sloane saying he and Clark had been attempting to put the fire out.

The court yesterday heard from a Toowoomba-based police officer, who had been working at Gatton at the time, who found the extinguisher at a nearby undercover area where it had been "let off".

Mr Le Grand said the extinguisher powder in the undercover area was evidence Clark and Denton were "playing around" with it, and not making a concerted effort to put the fire out.

However, Mr Sloane submitted to the jury the inconsistencies in Denton's testimony meant much of his evidence against Clark should be disregarded.

Judge Deborah Richards is expected to finish summing up tomorrow before the jury retires to consider its verdict.

Topics:  arson



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