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Australian man jailed for seven years for torching government building after his chihuahua was taken away

Department of Communities building Geraldton

A West Australian man has been sentenced to seven years in jail for setting a government building on fire after he left his dog inside and staff had it impounded.

The Geraldton District Court heard on Monday that Anthony John Kruger, 51, entered the Department of Communities office in Geraldton on August 3 last year with his chihuahua to complain about a damaged fence.

He left the dog tied up inside the office and walked out, and was distressed when he returned to find that staff had called a ranger to collect it, calling triple-zero to report the chihuahua stolen before threatening to torch the office, the court heard.

Anthony John Kruger jailed for setting Geraldton building on fire
Anthony John Kruger (Facebook)

“I will burn the department of housing to the ground, if you’re in Geraldton this is your last warning because I will do it,” he said on the phone, the Geraldton Guardian reported.

Kruger returned 50 minutes later with a jerry can of fuel, poured petrol over the office’s counter and set it alight despite staff begging him to stop.

He then drove off in his white Hyundai Excel before being tracked down hours later by a police helicopter.

The blaze caused about $1.6 million of damage to the heritage building, which is still closed.

Three staff were in the office at the time, and 30 people had to be evacuated from the building, but no-one was injured.

Judge Michael Bowden noted that since the arson attack staff members had suffered PTSD, loss of appetite and sleep, and become prone to breaking into tears, ABC News reported.

He said in sentencing that deterrence was his main consideration.

“Your motive appeared solely for revenge,” Judge Bowden said.

“It’s no stretch of imagination that if you light a fire it can easily get out of control.”

Defence lawyer George Guidice told the court Kruger had been under “extreme stress” since the department had refused to put his family home put in his name, suffered from mental health issues, and did not intend to harm anyone.

Kruger on Monday pleaded guilty to two charges – criminal damage by fire and intent to harm, and was given two seven-year sentences for each charge, to be served concurrently and backdated to the day of the attack, when he was first taken into custody.

He will be eligible for parole after five years.

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