The Case of the Speculative Rube Goldberg-Style Long Distance Home Arson Attempt

THE CASE OF THE SPECULATIVE RUBE GOLDBERG-STYLE LONG DISTANCE HOME ARSON ATTEMPT Meanwhile, in Kerikeri: Gag orders surrounding a set of insurance fraud and blackmail investigations have recently expired, bringing to light details of New Zealand investigators’ suspicions that British expat Chris Robinson may have burned his own house down while out of town in 2013. Investigators of the fire, which destroyed Robinson’s multi-million-dollar home and Mercedes, found burn marks suggesting a flame accelerant, as well as records of a remote login to a home computer on the night of the fire. Traces of the software program used to access the home machine were found on Robinson’s travel laptop, though he deleted the program the morning after the blaze. The investigators eventually presented a proof of concept video in court demonstrating one theoretically possible method of starting a fire remotely: the investigators cued a printer to print, which pulled down a sheet of paper which was taped to a string, pulling a switch that caused a small heating element to set some matches on fire (enough to ignite the accelerant that appeared to have been splashed around the house). The case fell apart because investigators didn’t produce evidence of a sent print command; though the insurance company still won’t pay out for the house, Robinson was acquitted. He did, however, lose an associated court case over an attempt to blackmail the insurance company; during sentencing, the judge took into consideration a previous UK conviction for posing as an Irish priest to solicit-slash-extort donations to a nonexistent charity. [Stuff via The Independent]

5 Comment

  • Lol, but as a matter of practicality, how is it beneficial to burn down a house? The insurance company will pay off the mortgage and most of your equity, which you still would get if you just SELL the house.

  • The arson investigation thinks they found evidence of an “accelerant” not a “propellant.” Although I suppose an alternative version of the Rube Goldberg machine could have included a can of Aqua Net spraying through an ignition source. . . .

  • Common, if you sell you have to move. If you burn you can have a new house right where you are. Maybe the view kicked ass but his house was featured on McMansion Hell.

  • Hey, sky’s the limit! (Or at least the roof is.) Fixed that — thanks, slugline!

  • @common Some men just want to watch the world burn