House fire at Sturt Street, Leichhardt in 2015.
House fire at Sturt Street, Leichhardt in 2015. Inga Williams

Mum off to the big house after house fires, break-in spree

A MUM seeking a cash boost for her big family took drastic measures, setting fire to three rental houses and staging a break-in with the intent to defraud insurance companies.

Her crimes caused $400,000 damage and netted the mother of eight $90,000 in insurance payouts.

The first fire started by Rebecca McKellar was described by the Crown as a revenge crime against her landlord.

Rebecca Anne McKellar, 34, pleaded guilty in the Ipswich District Court to three counts of arson, three counts of fraud; fraud to gain value over $30,000; and causing wilful damage. The arson offences were committed at Bellbird Park on December 6, 2011, Ellengrove on November 11, 2014, and Leichhardt on August 17, 2015. The wilful damage charge was for a broken window which had been smashed in the staged burglary at McKellar's Leichhardt home on April 16, 2015.

After being charged, she fled to WA but was later extradited.

During her sentence before Judge Dennis Lynch QC, Crown prosecutor Clayton Wallis said at the time of her first arson, McKellar was $5000 in arrears to her landlord.

"She feigned ignorance as to the cause of the fire," Mr Wallis said.

"She was paid out $17,000 (in personal property insurance)."

Mr Wallis said she staged a burglary in 2015 and complained to police her house was unlawfully entered and property was stolen.

McKellar was paid $13,000 for her insurance claim.

Mr Wallis said McKellar made admissions that she burned an Ellen Grove residence in 2014. Her insurance claim paid $60,000.

Insurers paid $219,000 to the owner of one of the homes, and $114,000 was paid to the Department of Housing for the loss of the Leichhardt property.

Defence barrister Stephen Kissick said McKellar's admissions were significant in fire investigators being able to determine the cause of the fires.

Judge Lynch sentenced her to six years jail, to be eligible for parole after serving 18 months.