Teenager charged over $500,000 fire at Geraldton’s old Victoria Hotel

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Liam BeattyGeraldton Guardian
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The historic Victoria Hotel on fire in the early hours of Friday, February 19 2021.
Camera IconThe historic Victoria Hotel on fire in the early hours of Friday, February 19 2021. Credit: Supplied

Police charged an 18-year-old man on Friday over the alleged arson attack that gutted Geraldton’s historic Victoria Hotel in February, forcing it to be bulldozed.

Geraldton detectives officer-in-charge Det-Sen. Sgt Bruce McDonald said the man was picked up on Friday in South Headland and charged with aggravated burglary and breach of duty in relation to the fire.

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He said police would allege the man, who was 17 years old and living in Geraldton at the time, entered the building late at night on February 18 and “once inside the fire started”.

“The fire quickly developed inside of the building, so the male fled from the scene,” he said.

The fire was reported at 12.40am to triple-0, with firefighters arriving to discover the second storey of the historic hotel ablaze.

Firefighters spray water over the facade in an attempt to extinguish the fire inside.
Camera IconFirefighters spray water over the facade in an attempt to extinguish the fire inside. Credit: Liam Beatty/Geraldton Guardian

Fire ripped through the Marine Terrace building, with firefighters battling for 10 hours to control the blaze and stop it spreading to surrounding structures.

As a result of the fire, the 159-year-old hotel was declared a safety hazard after a structural assessment and demolition began a week later.

Det-Sen. Sgt McDonald said the total damage bill was estimated to be about $500,000.

Most recently operating as the Blue Heelers Tavern, the building has sat derelict for more than 10 years after being bought by a now-defunct investment company — Geraldton Investments Pty Ltd.

At the request of the City of Greater Geraldton, demolition contractors salvaged well-known artworks and parts of the original stonework “for historical purposes”.

The condemned building was torn down.
Camera IconThe condemned building was torn down. Credit: Liam Beatty/Geraldton Guardian

It is estimated the total damage caused to the building was about $500,000.00.

Det-Sen. Sgt McDonald said the man will appear in the Geraldton Children’s Court in late July to face the charges.

“Geraldton Detectives are seeking additional information in relation to the incident,” he said. “If anyone has any further information about the fire contact Geraldton Detectives or Crime Stoppers.”

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