'Mentally disturbed' truck arsonist claims crimes were justified

Gavin Hach
Gavin Hach

Gavin Hach had no regrets in causing $1.3 million in damage by setting fire to two trucks owned by his boss because he was asked to produce a medical certificate when returning from two weeks of sick leave.

The 33-year-old father-of-three has pleaded guilty to two charges of criminal damage by fire when he snuck into the JJ Richards depot in Wodonga in the early hours of March 6 after a night of drinking.

Acting in anger, he smashed the windows of two trucks, poured fuel inside the cabins and set them alight with a cigarette lighter. 

Four of the company’s trucks were destroyed when the fire spread.

Hach appeared in Wodonga County Court on Thursday where he was placed into custody for at least three months while the case was adjourned so Judge Marilyn Harbison could see if he could now handle the instructions of authority figures.

TRUCK DAMAGE: The value of damage to the trucks has been disputed by Gavin Hach, meaning JJ Richards will have to take him to the Civil Court to claim compensation.

TRUCK DAMAGE: The value of damage to the trucks has been disputed by Gavin Hach, meaning JJ Richards will have to take him to the Civil Court to claim compensation.

Crown prosecutor Andrew Moore said Hach, a relief garbage truck driver with JJ Richards, had spent a week as an involuntary patient at Albury hospital’s psychiatric unit during his time away from work.

He and a former coworker, who had recently been fired, threatened the boss over the phone when Hach called about returning to work on March 5.

After drinking beers with his friend that night, Hach drove to the depot, crawled under the fence and set the trucks on fire.

He was arrested the next day.

“He didn’t display any remorse for what he did – he said he wanted to get back at his boss,” Mr Moore said.

“He has obviously serious psychological issues.”

He didn’t display any remorse for what he did.

Prosecutor Andrew Moore

Asked by police what he would do differently if he could, Hach said “I would have burnt down the factory if I had more time”.

Barrister Neil Hutton asked for his client to be placed on a community corrections order but Judge Harbison said she was concerned Hach would not willingly follow instructions, based on a psychological report.

“He remarked four months ago the view his actions were justified,” she said.

The report concluded Hach “explodes on occasions” when dealing with authority figures because of a drive to stick up for himself and he was unlikely to respond to help to curb his violence.

Mr Hutton said Hach was “mentally disturbed” as a result of a difficult childhood, but this was his first criminal offence.

“A person with a better education, they may have dealt with that differently,” he said.

“He’s learning he needs what he calls a stop button.”

Ms Harbison ruled Hach start serving time in custody and undergo another more up-to-date psychological report before the case is heard again in the County Court circuit starting in late February.