ACT News


Car firebombings hurt people, ruin lives, says victim

Chisholm's Mark Zezulka wants the ''idiots'' who think it is fun to set people's cars alight to realise their pranks are not victimless crimes.

An unprovoked attack in the school holidays at about 1.15am on July 16 last year cost the 21-year-old his successful prestige car detailing business, hospitalised him with second degree burns and put him off work almost two months.

The attack, like many such incidents involving vehicles in the city's outer suburbs, was not mentioned by police in a media release, or an online alert by the Emergency Services Agency.

Fairfax Media has sought details from ACT Policing on how commonplace and widespread the problem is. Victims and witnesses have repeatedly said that when first responders arrive they almost invariably say such attacks are par for the course and that offenders are rarely brought to justice.

This is despite the fact that their actions put families at risk, turn people's lives upside down. and endanger homes.

''Your story 'Firebomb victim unhappy with ACT police' (January 16) reminds me of how, about a year ago, our neighbourhood in Chapman was woken by a car firebombing in the early hours of one morning and then the arrival of the fire brigade,'' John Milne said.


''The house [where the attack occurred] was occupied by housesitters and the owners were overseas. What struck many [of us] at the time was the police saying 'this sort of thing happens all over Canberra all the time', or words to that effect.

''There seemed to be a certain nonchalance about the crime.''

This does not mean the incidents are not devastating for the victims.

''People don't realise that when something like this happens you have to put your life on hold while you sort it out,'' Mr Zezulka said.

His parents migrated from Czechoslovakia 25 years ago with nothing but their dreams of freedom and a willingness to work hard to make a new life, safe from harm.

''People say 'you are lucky you have insurance' but it is not luck; you pay for it and it doesn't cover everything.''

Mr Zezulka had to pay a $600 excess and lost hundreds of dollars of stock for his car detailing business that was in the car.

The attack, which shattered the innocence of a peaceful street where ''nothing ever happens'', was particularly vicious.

The offenders, believed to be two teenage boys, removed the Zezulkas' garden hose to make the fire more difficult to extinguish and threw rubbish bins through the windscreen of his pride and joy, a 2010 Holden Barina.

The alarm was raised by Mr Zezulka's mother Marie when she heard a noise outside.

''I thought it was Mark and wondered what he was doing,'' she said. ''I was half asleep when I opened the curtain and saw two figures; they were little, like kids. Then there were flames.

''I opened the window and started yelling 'what are you doing?' They turned around and left and then the neighbours came out.''

Mrs Zezulka, whose husband was away at the time, was badly shaken and feared for the safety of her two sons and her house. ''Any time I open the window I still see them [in her mind's eye]. Even now.''

While Mark was trying to put the fire out his twin, John, chased the culprits. ''I am glad he did not catch them,'' Mrs Zezulka said. ''He is very big and they were quite little and he could have killed them.''

Molten plastic from the burning rubbish bins splashed Mark's body while he was fighting the fire and an ambulance was called to take him to hospital.

He was scarred, and says the burns on one foot took months to heal.

By the time he was able to work again, most of his clients had moved on. ''I am really lucky in that I got a job with TransACT in the customer service area. If that hadn't come through when it did I would have run out of money, and I work with some really great people.''

That said, the self-confessed car tragic still misses getting up close and personal with the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys he used to keep pristine before last July.

He still does some detailing on weekends for a few special customers who stuck with him through the bad times but it just isn't the same.


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