Backpacker arson admitted

A man admitted setting a fire in his room in a back-packers hostel after he had tampered with the fire escape door.

In the Christchurch District Court, Maui Kereopa Rangitoheriri pleaded guilty to arson of the Point Break Backpackers in New Brighton on December 7.

Rangitoheriri was staying in a room, and about 34 other people were staying in the building. He was seen tampering with the fire escape door and when approached by a staff member became aggressive and verbally abusive.

He started banging loudly on the walls in this room, and making a lot of noise, and then a fire alarm went off.

The owner of the business disabled the fire alarm, and saw the panel was showing a fault with the sensor in Rangitoheriri’s room.

She went to the room and saw the fire sensor was hanging off the ceiling, and Rangitoheriri was ripping up posters from the walls and piling up bunches of toilet paper on the bed.

He left the room and downstairs he piled up bunches of toilet paper on top of some old paint tins, and a bottle of flammable solvent.

He returned to his room and set fire to it.

The owner returned to his room to repair the broken sensor and found the fire blazing. She had to evacuate the building by knocking on all the bedroom doors as the fire alarm was still disabled.

She received burns to her head and suffered smoke inhalation.

Judge Tom Gilbert remanded Rangitoheriri in custody for sentencing on August 23.

Defence counsel Kathy Basire said Rangitoheriri wanted to attend a restorative justice meeting with the woman if it could be arranged. She said there had been a psychiatric report done on him.

Judge Gilbert asked for a pre-sentence report, an alcohol and drug assessment, and an assessment to decide whether Rangitoheriri was suitable for a home detention sentence.