Arsonist Charged with Lighting Australian Bushfire Faces Lynch Mob
Michael Truong of New South Wales caught starting fire in Victoria by local residents
An arsonist, who has been charged with starting fires amid the devastating bushfires in Australia, is facing a lynch mob of angry Australians for his alleged crimes, according to reports.
36-year-old Michael Truong of New South Wales was caught in the act of lighting fires by local residents, who apprehended the firebug and turned him in to the police.
Truong is accused of lighting a blaze in fire-ravaged Victoria and has since been hit with death threats.
Locals in Johnsonville - about 20 kilometers east of Bairnsdale in Victoria's fire-torn east - apprehended Truong last week.
During his appearance at Bairnsdale Magistrates' Court, Truong faced-off with a horde of angry locals calling for him to be "strung up."
The court charged Truong with lighting a bushfire, according to Daily Mail Australia.
More than half-a-billion hectares of land in Victoria has been burnt out in East Gippsland, with dozens of properties lost and many remote communities left without power and phone coverage.
Three people have been confirmed dead in Victoria's east, with the death of Mat Kavanagh last Friday being confirmed as bushfire-related.
Buchan man Mick Roberts was identified as the first victim of the bushfire emergency, while Maramingo Creek timber worker Fred Becker was confirmed dead at the weekend.
Truong was approached by suspicious residents, including a Country Fire Authority captain after they saw the New South Wales-licensed vehicle loitering in bushland.
On closer inspection, the residents claimed that Truong had set fire to pieces of paper in thick scrub.
Their response saw the fire quickly extinguished and Truong was taken into custody by police.
Detective Sergeant Margaret Schulz, of East Gippsland Criminal Investigation Unit, praised the individuals for averting a potential disaster.
"He was (caught) straight away, because of the location, the neighbors were onto him straight away and they then rang the CFA," she told the Mail.
"It was a very small fire and it's certainly not linked to what's going on in relation to all the other fires.
"All our fires have been started by lightning strikes."
Truong allegedly fled up the road, but was pursued and apprehended by the concerned residents until police arrived.
Police believe Truong had been living rough in his car for some time and it remains unclear why he had traveled south into Victoria.
Despite widespread rumors within the fire-weary community, Detective Schulz said Truong was only suspected of lighting that one fire.
"There is no information at this point that he has been responsible for anything else. Obviously he's got some issues," she said.
Truong has allegedly refused to co-operate with police and upon carrying out a bail application without legal representation, complained to the magistrate that the residents who detained him had "banged on his windows."
But rattled windows are the least of the alleged firebug's concerns if comments on social media are anything to go by.
"String him up out the front of the court house," one angry person write on Facebook following the arrest.
"Fire bugs should be dropped in the middle of a bushfire from 30,000ft up. But give them a parachute so they don't hurt themselves on landing," another wrote.
"He should be horse whipped with extreme prejudice," it continued.
Detective Schulz said she believed the individuals who actually detained Truong were "quite restrained."
"I was actually thinking he's lucky nothing more had happened," she said.
"As to what his plan was or why he was doing it, Lord only knows."
At the close of last year, 12 people in Victoria were charged for causing bushfires.
While Truong will front court again in April, police in the devastated area are prepared for a long grind until then.
"It's a marathon and we're only at the start," Detective Schulz said.
"Notoriously it's February that's really bad for fires so I can't see how we're going to come out unscathed."