BACK in May this year the Lithgow district — and in fact much of Australia — was horrified at reports that the proprietor of the Mt Lambie roadhouse had been bashed and left to die in his burning service station.
But according to police it was all an elaborate — if none too subtle — fraud attempt.
Three months after the event the ‘victim’ has been arrested at Grafton and charged on two counts relating to the fire.
Around 10.30pm on Saturday May 19 emergency services from Lithgow and Bathurst rushed to Mt Lambie after reports the landmark roadhouse was well alight.
Police were told the owner had been counting the day’s takings in his residence behind the business when he was confronted by two men who bashed him, tied his hands, then set the premises on fire before fleeing.
Passing motorists who stopped to investigate the fire heard the man calling out and went to his aid before the entire building was engulfed in flame.
The damage bill was estimated at around $1.5 million.
Within hours of the fire being extinguished authorities were making no secret of the fact they had suspicions.
According to inside sources the suspicions were reinforced when medical staff at Bathurst Hospital were allegedly unable to find any real evidence of the claimed assault.
Arson Squad and Fire and Rescue experts spent days sifting through the rubble while the crime scene was kept under 24 hour police guard.
With police remaining strangely silent on the progress of the investigation and possible leads to the ‘assailants’ rumours began to circulate within the Lithgow community that the circumstance surrounding the destruction of the roadhouse were not what at first seemed.
Late on Wednesday detectives from the Property Crime Squad went to a property at Wells Crossing, on the Mid North Coast.
They arrested a 56-year-old man who was taken to Grafton Police Station for questioning.
He was later charged with dishonesty for gain destroy property by fire and intentionally destroy property by fire.
Police have confirmed that the arrested man was the owner of the service station.
He was allowed conditional bail to appear in Grafton Local Court on September 10.