Firefighters fight a wild house blaze on Alice Street at Maryborough. Photo Lachie Millard
Firefighters fight a wild house blaze on Alice Street at Maryborough. Photo Lachie Millard

Young arsonist set partner’s home on fire, watched it burn

CONVINCED her estranged partner was cheating on her, an intellectually impaired young woman broke into his empty Maryborough home, turned on a stove and left papers on top of it.

Peta Michelle Harvey, now 20, then sat across the road from the Alice St home and watched it burn, Maryborough District Court heard.

Harvey, who sobbed through Wednesday's proceedings and at times held her head in her hands, pleaded guilty to entering a dwelling with intent and arson.

Maryborough House Fire – Fire ripped through a house on Alice St Tuesday night. Photo: Cody Fox
Maryborough House Fire – Fire ripped through a house on Alice St Tuesday night. Photo: Cody Fox

The court heard Harvey became involved with the man when she was 17 and he was 41 and the relationship was abusive on both sides.

Their relationship broke down about midway through 2019 but the two continued seeing each other.

Due to the uncertain nature of their relationship, Harvey became suspicious he was involved with other women, the court heard.

On December 17 last year, she visited the man's home and entered through the back door.

Once inside, she placed the paper on the stove.

Peta Michelle Harvey pleaded guilty in Maryborough District Court to arson.
Peta Michelle Harvey pleaded guilty in Maryborough District Court to arson.


The court heard when police questioned her, she claimed the man told her he had accidentally left the stove on.

But when police said they intended to keep her at the station, she made full admissions to her crime.

While no one was at home at the time of the offence, neighbours had put themselves at risk protecting their properties and trying to make sure no one was inside the house.

The court heard Harvey had been diagnosed with ADHD and had an intellectual disability.

She was born in Gympie but moved to Maryborough at a young age and attended Maryborough Special School.

Firefighters fight a wild house blaze on Alice Street at Maryborough. Photo Lachie Millard
Firefighters fight a wild house blaze on Alice Street at Maryborough. Photo Lachie Millard

She had left her family's home at 17 to live with the man, at which time she had stopped taking medication to treat her ADHD, the court heard.

She had an IQ of 51 and the oral comprehension level of a nine year old, according to testing done ahead of the court proceedings.

That placed her in an extremely low range for verbal reasoning and non-verbal problem solving.

She intended to move back to Gympie to be near family.

Harvey had written a letter to the court expressing her remorse.

Judge Orazio Rinaudo said he accepted Harvey was regretful of her actions and at the time was upset because of the breakdown of the relationship.

He found that while the insurance company sought restitution, there was little to no prospect that it could be paid.

Harvey was given a head sentence of three years in prison and was immediately released on parole.

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. 


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