Police charge man after artwork valued at $160,000 recovered after fatal fire at Entrance

A man will reappear in court today after artwork valued at more than $160,000 was recovered as part of an ongoing investigation into a fatal fire on the state’s Central Coast last year.

Emergency services were called to a shopping centre on The Entrance Road, The Entrance, about 4.30pm on Sunday 20 October 2019, following reports of a building fire.

A 69-year-old man was found unconscious inside a shop within the building.

NSW Fire and Rescue officers dragged the man outside and commenced CPR, however, he was unable to be revived.

Detectives from the Financial Crimes Squad’s Arson Unit and Tuggerah Lakes Police District established Strike Force Zorianna to investigate the blaze.

A teenage boy was subsequently charged and remains before the courts.

During the investigation, strike force officers received information that a number of valuable artworks had been stolen from the shop during decontamination and structural assessments.

Following extensive inquiries, strike force investigators executed a search warrant at a unit on High Street, Maitland, about 7.30am on Thursday 14 May 2020.

During the search, police located an air rifle, a pen gun, an electronic stun device, ammunition and prohibited drugs.

Investigators also seized 87 artworks valued at more than $160,000 in total, which have since been returned to family members.

A short time later, officers arrested a 50-year-old man at a worksite at Bateau Bay.

He was taken to Wyong Police Station and charged with 10 offences including;

  • larceny (greater than $15,000),
  • possess ammunition without holding licence/permit/authority,
  • possess unauthorised pistol,
  • possess unauthorised firearm (x3),
  • not keep firearm safely (x2),
  • possess prohibited drug, and
  • possess or use a prohibited weapon without permit.

It will be alleged in court that the man stole artworks belonging to a deceased 69-year-old man while he was contracted to clean the fire-affected shop.

The Maitland man was refused bail and appeared at Newcastle Local Court on Friday 15 May 2020, where he was granted strict conditional bail to reappear at Wyong Local Court today (Tuesday 2 June 2020).

Anyone with information about property theft is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.

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