ACT News

Man found not guilty of setting estranged partner's house on fire

A man has been found not guilty of setting fire to his estranged partner's home in Monash during a bitter custody battle.

Todd Elphick, 28, will face sentencing after pleading guilty to four other charges, including contravening a court order, stalking, and threatening to commit arson. 

It is the second time Elphick has faced trial over the charges, with the first aborted earlier this year after an issue with evidence.

Elphick pleaded not guilty to threatening to damage his estranged partner Natasha Smith's family home in Monash and to deliberately burning the property in July last year.

He was remanded in custody. He will appear before the court on Monday for a bail application and will face sentencing on February 12. 

After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury returned on Thursday afternoon to deliver their verdict to Justice Richard Refshauge in the ACT Supreme Court. 

The fired caused about $300,000 damage to the home.  No one was inside at the time of the fire.

The fire was deemed suspicious by authorities and the court heard alcohol and petrol had been used to start the fire from within the house.

Elphick denied burning down the property and his barrister, Ray Livingston, told the court circumstantial evidence suggested someone might have been trying to get him arrested.

In his closing submission, Crown prosecutor Trent Hickey told the jury Elphick had threatened Ms Smith and her family on many occasions and regularly prank-called her home.  

Mr Livingston told the jury the prank phone calls demonstrated his client might have become obsessed with her family.

"The calls do him no credit at all and that's a matter you will no doubt take into account," he told the jury.

The court heard that in May last year, several weeks before the fire, a bitter custody battle erupted at his child's birthday party at Ms Smith's home in Monash.

The crown alleged Elphick arrived at the property and kicked the front door, before pulling the security screen off the back door and trying to tip over a jumping castle.

The court heard Elphick's DNA had been found on the property's electricity switch box, which was turned off several hours before the fire, but his defence told the jury he had used the box on other occasions.

The jury also heard Elphick was found with petrol on his clothes after the fire, but Mr Livingston said this could have been from other activities.

The Crown relied on telephone records, text messages, and maps of Elphick's alleged location on the night of the fire drawn from signal tower data.