An former student who broke into a Tamworth high school and stole a handful of goods before setting fire to a classroom block has been jailed for more than three years.
Christopher James King-Cougan was taken into custody by Corrective Services officers in the Downing Centre District Court in Sydney for his part in the Oxley High School fire in 2012.
He’s the second to be jailed over the massive blaze that ripped through the Castlereagh block, leaving a damage bill that topped $12 million.
The suspicious blaze quickly spiralled out of control in the early hours of March 18, 2012, and destroyed the classroom block which housed physical education rooms, science labs and English classrooms.
The jail sentence spells the end of the five-year ordeal which devastated the Oxley community and saw part of the school re-built.
King-Cougan wasn’t charged until 2015 after a breakthrough in the long-running investigation which was re-opened by Oxley detectives and investigators from the State Crime Command’s Arson Squad.
The case against King-Cougan relied on DNA evidence investigators recovered from the charred remains at the fire scene along with partial admissions.
He was arrested in West Tamworth in March, 2015, and spent one night in custody before being granted conditional bail – something he remained on until sentencing.
Two months after King-Cougan’s arrest, his co-accused, who was 17 at the time and cannot be identified, was extradited from Victoria for his role in the break-in and arson.
The 17-year-old used rubber gloves that were found just metres away from the scene and gave the forensic breakthrough police needed to arrest and charge him.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2016 to three years in jail with a non-parole period of one-year-and-seven months.
King-Cougan initially denied the charges against him. Just before he was due to stand trial in March, he pleaded guilty in the Tamworth District Court.
The case was transferred to Sydney to be dealt with by Judge Donna Woodburne, who sentenced the co-accused in 2016.
King-Cougan was jailed for a maximum of three-years-and-five months for destroying property worth more than $5,000 in company, and the break-in.
He will have to serve one-year-and-eight months before he’s eligible for parole meaning his earliest release date is in March, 2019.