Teen admits to burning car for 88-year-old woman

A TEENAGE boy from Hervey Bay has admitted to helping set a car on fire for an 88-year-old woman, after she promised him $2,500 to burn the $20,000 vehicle.

Nathan James Johnson, 17, appeared in Maryborough District Court yesterday, and pleaded guilty to burglary, arson and endangering a building with fire.

Crown Prosecutor Gavin Webber told the court Mavis Lillian Brownswell, 88, offered to pay Johnson to burn a car she had bought as a gift for a neighbour.

"The complainant, Karen Smith, lived in Caddy Ave in Urraween with her partner and six children aged between 18 months and 11-years-old, they had lived there for some time," Mr Webber said.

"Ms Brownswell, 88 at the time, lived two houses down when the complainant moved in and they helped each other out.

"Ms Brownswell wanted Ms Smith to become her carer, and bought her a $20,000 car as a gift."

Mr Webber said Ms Smith felt obliged to become the woman's carer after that, but the relationship deteriorated over the next few months.

"Ms Brownswell said she wanted the vehicle back…for some time after there were incidents involving the car; the types were slashed," he said.

Johnson had known Ms Brownswell after mowing her lawn for some time, and in mid-November in 2015, she offered to pay him to torch the car.

"She said 'I want you to destroy the bloody thing because I can't get it back'," Mr Webber said.

"Mr Johnson enlisted the help of Matthew Eric Garner (18); the other accused, who accepted the money."

The court heard that between 4am and 4.30am of November 25, 2015, the two teenagers broke into the Smith's garage and set the car on fire.

"Johnson poured methylated spirits on the vehicle and on the ground, and Garner lit the methylated spirits on fire, which was likely to cause the garage to catch on fire," the prosecutor said.

The family were in bed asleep at the time, and were woken when neighbours knocked on their window.

One neighbour tried to extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher, but was unsuccessful.

A person was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation, and more than $1,700 worth of damage was done to the garage.

The court heard that at the time of the incident, Johnson was on bail for assaulting a man he claimed to be part of the Rebel bikie gang.

Defence Barrister Paul Rutledge said his client had decided to "man up" and explain his involvement in the arson incident to the police the next day.

"He was living on the street and had fallen in with the wrong crowd, which is easy to do in this area," Mr Rutledge said.

"He was using cannabis, had no job or money and no support…he foolishly took up this offer."

Mr Rutledge said Johnson was now living with his father and had plans to go to Tafe next year.

Judge Paul Smith said he considered how young Johnson was, and how his early plea of guilty had strengthened the overall case.

"Currently in Queensland you're treated as an adult," Judge Smith said.

"There is proposed legislation to change that to 18 years, but under the current law I must deal with you as an adult."

Judge Smith sentenced Johnson to two years imprisonment on probation and 120 hours of community service.

Garner and Brownswell are expected to stand trial in November this year.

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