Timeline to house fire terror: Why was pharmacist free?

 

Urgent action for police and courts to be given more ability to protect domestic violence victims is being called for after pharmacist Curtis Shea Mickan allegedly tried to kill his wife just six hours after being arrested and released without charge.

Mickan, 34, has been charged with the attempted murder of his wife and mother-in-law after he allegedly set fire to their home while the women were inside in the latest of a spate of domestic violence incidents to shock the state.

Curtis Shea Mickan, 34, has been charged with attempted murder after a house fire in Brisbane’s north.
Curtis Shea Mickan, 34, has been charged with attempted murder after a house fire in Brisbane’s north.

Police were called to the Wooloowin home at 11pm Saturday to respond to what they described as a "high level" disturbance.

Mickan, a pharmacist, was arrested and taken to the Brisbane Watch House but was released hours later on "strict conditions" without being charged.

It is understood details of his alleged assaults on his wife did not emerge until later.

Police allege Mickan returned and asked for the return of some personal items about 6am. Moments after he allegedly drove away, a loud bang was heard and the house erupted in flames.

Fire crews from Chermside, Windsor and Hendra responded to the blaze but the house was destroyed.

The Wooloowin home was destroyed in the blaze. Picture: Liam Kidston.
The Wooloowin home was destroyed in the blaze. Picture: Liam Kidston.

Mickan fronted court yesterday on eight charges - including two each of attempted murder and arson, assault occasioning bodily harm, common assault and wilful damage.

The assault and wilful damage charges came to light following the fire but relate to the initial call to police.

The pharmacist handed himself into police at Hendra later that morning.

He was denied police bail and his matter was heard in the Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday.

Defence solicitor Tam Elabbasi told the court his client would not be applying for bail.

"It's a totally unfortunate set of circumstances," he told reporters outside court.

"There's been some damage. Someone has lost everything. It's terrible."

The latest domestic violence incident has sparked calls for urgent changes to the justice system to give more protection to victims.

It comes just weeks after Gold Coast mum Kelly Wilkinson died from horrific burns after she was allegedly doused with petrol and set on fire by her estranged husband Brian Earl Johnston on April 20.

Johnston had walked from police custody on serious charges - without having to front court - eight days before allegedly murdering Ms Wilkinson.

Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson. Picture: Brad Fleet
Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson. Picture: Brad Fleet

Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson, who helps women recover and move on from abusive relationships, said keeping an accused perpetrator in custody until they can front a court to apply for bail would give everyone an opportunity to make an informed decision.

This is instead of police releasing the alleged perpetrator within hours of their arrest.

"And if that means a person has to be restrained, has to be held until they can appear in court - so be it," she said.

"It might give them time to calm down a little bit before they make a rash decision, before they make a decision that endangers the life of their intimate partner."

Women's Legal Service Queensland CEO Angela Lynch said while a "level of discretion" was still needed around decisions on whether to release a domestic violence perpetrator, "it may be that more court oversight is provided before police are able to provide bail".

Bail laws will be discussed as part of the Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce, headed by Justice Margaret McMurdo.

"Obviously we are in a situation of urgency here in relation to our responses to domestic violence in Queensland," Ms Lynch said.

"Do we have to wait for another murder? We've got somebody up on charges of attempted murder - there needs to be an urgent review of these laws."

Angela Lynch, CEO of Women’s Legal Service Queensland. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Angela Lynch, CEO of Women’s Legal Service Queensland. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Mickan was not on bail because he was not facing charges at the time of the fire.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said addressing breaches of bail in domestic violence cases could become part of significant discussions on overhauling the justice system to better protect victims of sexual violence and abuse.

While the meeting, between Senator Cash and her state counterparts, will be focused on ensuring victims of harassment, coercive control and abuse have the same rights and support in any jurisdiction, she said "nothing is off the table".

"We know that perpetrators breaching bail poses a huge risk to victims and we stand ready to work with States and Territories on workable solutions to this," she said.

"We want to ensure that victims and witnesses are protected adequately, which is why I am happy for all solutions to these matters to be raised in discussions with my State and Territory counterparts."

Questions have been asked about why Curtis Shea Mickan was allowed to walk free after being arrested in relation to an alleged DV, just hours before he allegedly tried to kill his wife and mother-in-law.
Questions have been asked about why Curtis Shea Mickan was allowed to walk free after being arrested in relation to an alleged DV, just hours before he allegedly tried to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

LNP Domestic Violence spokeswoman Amanda Camm said police are tired and inundated by domestic violence investigations.

"We need to be looking at what is best practice and how we can better equip and resource police to better do their job," she said.

Ms Camm said there was merit in finding a way to give officers time to make "an informed decision" when it comes to releasing someone from police custody.

"There is such complexity in each individual case - they need resources and they need time to be able to fully investigate," she said.

Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan said the government took all domestic and family violence matters "extremely seriously", with a review of bail laws underway.

"This government will always act to protect victims of domestic and family violence," he said.

"The comprehensive review being undertaken by former Justice Margaret McMurdo will include matters of bail.

"I am advised that police always review the decisions they make in relation to significant incidents, and if changes need to be made, they are."

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said since 2015 the state had introduced harsh penalties for breaches of domestic violence orders, police protection notices and release conditions.

Additional reporting, Hayden Johnson, Elise Williams

 

Originally published as Why was he free? Disturbing timeline before alleged attempted murder