ALBURY’S Hotel Termo had financial difficulties and burnt down after an explosion emanating from petrol being poured in the premises, a coroner’s report has found.
The fire involving the long-established Albury icon at the corner of Dean and Young streets in January, 2005 was investigated by police, fire authorities and insurance representatives.
A huge volume of evidence compiled by Albury detective Sen-Constable Troy Martin was provided to coroner Gordon Lerve in February.
Mr Lerve spent considerable time going through the evidence before deciding recently to dispense with holding an inquiry into the fire.
He has named the principal person of interest in the case as Phillip Phillips, who took over the hotel’s leasehold in June, 2003.
But Mr Lerve said Mr Phillips would be entitled to decline answering any questions at an inquiry so it would achieve nothing.
On May 14, Mr Lerve released his findings to the interested parties in the case — Mr Phillips, the police, CGU Insurance, the fire brigade and the hotel freehold owner — asking for a response on whether there was any point or need for an inquiry.
None of the interested parties have responded after more than a month.
Mr Lerve said the explosion at the hotel happened late on January 11 or early January 12, 2005.
Mr Phillips was present in the building at the time with a number of his family and extended family.
Eleven firefighters and three fire-fighting appliances were deployed at 12.45am, with the blaze taking hours to be completely extinguished.
It was investigated by the fire brigade using an accelerant detection dog.
The damage was consistent with an explosion of flammable vapours in the hotel’s underground cellar.
The explosion was triggered by a spark from a compressor in the cellar when it automatically came into operation.
Mr Lerve said it seemed the petrol was not poured into the cellar but rather spilled or leaked.
“Accordingly, there can be no doubt that the fire was deliberately lit,” Mr Lerve said.
“There is a clear inference that whoever poured the petrol around the premises intended there to be an explosion and substantial damage to property.”
Mr Lerve said he was satisfied security footage indicated one person pouring petrol around the ground floor of the premises, which leaked into the cellar.
The business was in financial difficulties at the time.