Eamonn Charles Coughlan's Bribie Island home exploded on July 18, 2015.
Eamonn Charles Coughlan's Bribie Island home exploded on July 18, 2015.

Fiery end to man's tall story about house explosion

A MAN convicted of blowing up his own house in one of Queensland's beach holiday hotspots has had his appeal rejected.

Eamonn Charles Coughlan's Bribie Island home exploded on July 18, 2015, while, he claimed, he was waiting nearby to see a man about a motorbike sale, Queensland Court of Appeal documents show.

Couglan was convicted of arson and fraud in June last year, but appealed on the basis that the jury got it wrong due in part to a flawed investigation involving "police corruption".

Coughlan claimed that he was walking to the front of the house when it exploded, with aluminium panels landing some 20m away.

Coughlan received burns to one hand, his face and his back but instead of calling police, he grabbed his motorbike and fled the scene.

His wife and police could not contact him for about two hours but Coughlan eventually went to Caboolture Police Station.

He was charged with arson and fraud.

A number of witnesses at his trial said they saw a man running from the area and the appeal court documents reveal: "those statements supported … the appellant being the only person running away from the fire."

One neighbour said there was a strong smell of petrol at the property in the moments before he heard the sound of glass smashing.

"(This) was followed by almost instantaneously an explosion that was followed by a shock wave that actually ... had a bit of force behind it ... pushing us away from the house that was on fire," the witness told the jury.

There was also evidence that Coughlan's clothes contained significant petrol on them.
A police expert told the jury it was highly unlikely the petrol on his clothes came from filling up a car or fuel can or from lawn-mowing.

"Members of the public aren't walking around with petrol on their clothing, even if you're filling up your car or even if you work in a profession where you're dealing with petrol," the witness said.

Coughlan was convicted but he appealed, claiming the court should  have heard evidence a group of youths were seen nearby when his car was the subject of an arson attack some two months before the house fire. He collected $85,000 from insurers after that fire.

He said a group of youths - identified in court as neighbourhood locals - were in the area when the house went up, but the appeal court found the jury was right in concluding they were not connected to the first fire.

During his trial Coughlan repeatedly claimed the investigation was flawed due to police corruption.

On appeal he claimed petrol residue and ashes found on his clothes were caused by cross-contamination resulting from an inadequate police investigation.

He also said the presence of a Redhead match found amongst his belongings after he attended the police station also suggested this.

The Queensland Court of Appeal disagreed, saying Coughlan's grounds of appeal were not met.

"The expert evidence established that the explosion was as a result of vapour, it originated inside the house, and at some point the appellant's tracksuit pants and shoes came into contact with liquid petrol," Justice Phillip Morrison said in his judgment.

"That contact with petrol could not have been as a result of the casual activities of filling a car at a service station or mowing the lawn or storing the clothes in a shed. 

"It is difficult to conclude that the failure to disclose the (police) reports or identity of the youths at the scene of the car arson could have impacted upon the trial in relation to the house arson," Justice Phillip Morrison said in his judgment.

Coughlan remains on bail and has not yet been sentenced. - NewsRegional

FOOTNOTE: This story was updated on the evening of April 18, largely to clarify that it was Coughlan who introduced into evidence the arson of his car.