Man charged in Australia wildfire
MELBOURNE, Australia - Police charged a man with deadly arson yesterday in one of southern Australia's wildfires and put him in protective custody as survivors expressed fury that anyone could set such a blaze.
Authorities also doubled the property toll, saying more than 1,800 homes have been destroyed in the Feb. 7 blazes. Officials say 181 people have been killed and expect that total to eventually exceed 200.
The suspect, whose identity was banned from publication by a magistrate because of the risk of reprisal attacks against him or his family, was formally charged with one count of arson causing death, one of intentionally lighting a wildfire, and one of possessing child pornography, Victoria police said.
Detectives arrested the man near Churchill and questioned him for several hours before he was brought to nearby Morwell, police said. He was charged in magistrate's court, but did not appear in the courtroom, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. He was ordered held in custody and to undergo psychiatric evaluation, ABC said. He was taken to Melbourne, where another hearing was set for Monday. The national news agency Australian Associated Press reported that some people outside the Morwell courthouse shouted abuse at a van that they believed was carrying him away.