Liverpool Council chambers fire sparked by a fine

FIRE destroyed the Liverpool City Council chambers in Sydney s southwest, police investigators suspect an arson attack may have been the cause.Photography Brendan Espositosmh,news,180810 SPECIAL 00133000 Liverpool Fire 100815 August 15 2010 SMH News Sydney Police and Fire Investigators access the damage of the Liverpool City Council Chambers which were substantially damaged due to a fire last night that is being treated with suspicion. Photograph By James Alcock. SPECIAL 00003638

Police have made a breakthrough in the investigation into a fire that caused $27 million in damage to the Liverpool Council chambers seven years ago, revealing it may have been triggered by someone angry about a parking fine worth just a few hundred dollars.

The Hoxton Park Road building was destroyed just after midnight on August 15, 2010, with detectives believing more than one person broke into the building and set it alight using accelerant.

Historic items were lost, including mayoral robes and a picture of former Labor party leader Mark Latham as mayor, and more than 3000 files were damaged including 600 hard copy files that had not been backed up and were completely lost.

Conspiracy theories swirled about who might have been responsible and that it may have been deliberately lit because of contentious local issues.

An inquiry failed to discover any suspects in the arson attack.

However, police revealed on Wednesday that they had “resurrected” the investigation following new information about a possible motive.

“Detectives have been told the fire may have been lit following a dispute over a council-issued fine,” property crime squad commander, Detective Superintendent Murray Chapman, said.

“We are continuing to analyse relevant records and data from around that time, but investigators believe there are people who have knowledge of the dispute but might not realise the connection to the fire.

“Given the extensive damage caused by the fire, we also believe there was more than one person inside the chambers that night, and likely there are others who know more than they’ve told police.”

Strike Force Gideon was established by detectives from the Property Crime Squad’s Arson Unit to reinvestigate the blaze following the fresh information.

Detective Superintendent Chapman said part of that investigation was to analyse council-issued fines in the time leading up to the fire.

And he believed there were people who were aware of who started the blaze.

“The destruction of this public facility was an act of stupidity and the public and local community should be outraged,” Detective Superintendent Chapman told reporters.

“The persons responsible should not be protected from the act and the damage that they have caused to this public facility.”

He later added: “I think there [are] people out there [who] know the offenders and not only do they know the offenders but they know that they are responsible for lighting this fire and they know the reason why they did it.

“And [they are] the people we want to come forward.

“Don’t protect these people, it is an absolute overreaction if this is the real reason for why this fire was caused. It is an absolute outrageous act of stupidity and these people should be punished.”

He has urged people with information to come forward before police come knocking on their door. No one has been arrested.

The breakthrough suggests that something seemingly far more minor was behind the catastrophic fire. At the time, politicians speculated that any one of several contentious local issues could be the catalyst.

The council was in the midst of a heated fight against a residents’ action group in the Land and Environment Court over a decision to approve plans for an Islamic school at Hoxton Park.

The council had also organised a public rally to protest against the federal government’s proposal for an intermodal freight hub in Moorebank, which threatened to add hundreds of trucks to the area’s congested roads.

There was bitter internal fighting between Labor and non-Labor councillors and the general manager had resigned following a dispute with three councillors over long service leave entitlements.

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