I am ill, woman told police

A WOMAN accused of setting her Wodonga rental home on fire told the first police on the scene she was suffering from “many and varied” mental illnesses.

Sasha Maree Ryan had allegedly set fire to some papers belonging to her now ex-partner.

But the Wodonga Magistrates Court was told yesterday that Ryan thought she had put the flames out before leaving the bedroom.

The fire caused structural damage to the room, while the rest of the house received severe smoke damage.

The family lost all their belongings in the blaze, which happened on August 23 last year.

Ryan has pleaded not guilty to criminal damage by fire, arson, reckless conduct endangering life and reckless conduct endangering serious injury.

Magistrate Ian Watkins yesterday committed Ryan, 24, to stand trial in the County Court.

Mr Watkins was told that Ryan, her then de facto partner, Paul Webb, and their children — aged four years and nine weeks — were all in the house when the fire started.

Wodonga policeman Sen-Constable Troy Bakic said he and his partner were on a routine patrol when they came across the fire about 11.30am.

Sen-Constable Bakic gave evidence he saw smoke billowing from the house and that it was clear the fire was quite serious.

Under questioning from defence barrister Diana Price, Sen- Constable Bakic said that was when he saw the family standing in the driveway.

Ms Price asked the officer for his first impressions of Ryan’s demeanour.

Sen-Constable Bakic said Ryan was “very blunt and matter of fact and almost defiant” in the tone of voice she was using.

Informant Detective Sen-Constable Brendan Roche said Ryan had made it clear she was suffering anxiety and depression.

He said she told him she had lit papers that Mr Webb had inside a bag in the bedroom.

When she revealed her mental health issues, police contacted a medical specialist to assess whether she was fit enough to be interviewed.

The doctor determined she was and so the police called in an independent person to provide Ryan with support.

Mr Webb earlier told the court that once he was allowed to go back into the house, he had found some jewellery he had given to Ryan below a burnt-out section of floor under a tallboy.

Ryan was bailed to appear — via video link — before a directions hearing of the County Court in Melbourne on June 2.

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