Plan to torch car and claim insurance hatched outside the Blazing Stump

STRAPPED for cash and facing thousands of dollars in repair bills for his car, a Wodonga man turned to an arsonist for help.

Andrew David Sandford relied on his 2008 Holden Captiva to drive family members, who have special needs, down to Melbourne.

The 47-year-old was already struggling financially when a mechanic told him the vehicle needed more than $6000 spent on it to keep it running.

After a few weeks spent weighing up his options, the father-of-two decided the best course of action was to pay two men to torch the vehicle and claim the insurance money from GIO.

The trio met, perhaps fittingly, at the Blazing Stump Hotel on July 13, and hatched the plan at the front of the bottle shop.

Sandford was to park the Captiva in his driveway at Camola Court and a co-accused would start it up, drive it away and torch it for $500.

The trio went to the back of the hotel and Sandford handed over the cash and key.

The key was to be returned so he could show it to police and prove the car was stolen. 

He went back to his home and the scheme largely went to plan with the vehicle set alight using petrol near the Stock Route, destroying it.

But the key was not handed back, causing the 47-year-old to panic.

He still went ahead with an online application and made a false police report.

The scheme unravelled on July 18 when Sandford attended the Wodonga police station and confessed. 

STRAPPED FOR CASH: Andrew David Sandford

STRAPPED FOR CASH: Andrew David Sandford

He was upset during the interview.

Defence lawyer Mario Vaccaro put the incident down to “total stupidity and desperation”.

He said Sandford had been unable to work after having a tumour removed from his spine.

The arson had made their financial state worse.

The car was destroyed and the family is now paying off a loan for an older vehicle.

Magistrate Ian Watkins said “severe financial strain” was behind the incident.

“I accept it’s out of character and brought a lot of distress to you and your wife,” he said.

“But insurance fraud – and that’s what it is – has a lot of cost to insurance companies and the community.”

He placed Sandford on a 12-month corrections order and ordered he perform 100 hours of unpaid work.

A co-accused will front court next week, followed by a second co-accused the week after.