Police and fire crews attend the scene of a house fire on Moreton Tce, Beachmere on Sunday where two people were killed.
Police and fire crews attend the scene of a house fire on Moreton Tce, Beachmere on Sunday where two people were killed. Sheree Echlin

Arsonist will spend next 20 years in jail for fatal fire

THE intense heat first woke Beachmere woman Rina Mayall, then she was overwhelmed by the smoke filling her two-story timber house.

She could not see and barely breathe so she moved on instinct in a home she had lived for a few short months.

Her feet were burning and she could hear the wood crackling as she moved.

Fire prevented her exiting via the rear stairs so she jumped, landing on her back.

Ms Mayall fractured two vertebrae, resulting in a permanent back injury, and suffered life-threatening smoke related health problems.

She survived, just, but two others did not escape the inferno.

Her new boyfriend Nicholas Spohn, of just a few weeks, had rushed out of the bedroom.

His body was later found in the bathroom.

Her aunt Jennifer Bachmann's body was found in the bedroom where she had slept.

Fortunately, Ms Mayall's six-year-old daughter was staying with her grandmother for the night.

The man responsible for the horror, born from a jealous rage, that unfolded in the Moreton Tce home on April 17, 2011, was sentenced to life in jail in Brisbane Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Craig Anthony Leonard, 30, pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Bachmann and Mr Spohn, causing grievous bodily harm to Ms Mayall and deliberating setting the fire for revenge.

Leonard told police he poured petrol on a mattress in Ms Myall's downstairs room to "scare" and "put the wind up her".

He had told police he wanted to "take her down a peg" and "f*** her up financially" but he thought the fire would burn out in the room where he lit it.

The Caboolture man, who has already served 674 days, must serve a minimum 20 years behind bars for his actions.

Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne said Leonard had been in a relationship with Ms Mayall for seven or eight months but she ended it in January, 2011.

He said the catalyst for the fire was learning Ms Mayall was in bed with her new boyfriend after a late-night phone call.

Mr Byrne said Leonard's intoxicated mind - from alcohol and taking methylamphetamines intravenously - might explain his decision to exact "a form of revenge on a former lover" but gave him no credit.

He said it was merely accidental there was not a third death.

"To describe the prisoner's actions as merely being stupid and senseless would detract from the very high and inherent danger of what he did, resulting in the loss of the lives of two people he never met," he said.


ERIKA VARGA (Nicholas Spohn's mother)

"There is not a day that goes by that we don't miss him terribly. You have destroyed our lives with your stupid revenge."

JENNIFER BACHMANN'S SISTER (name removed on request)

"New Year's Eve, 2006 … Jenny gave me a ring and said 'no matter how far apart we are, we'll always be together'. April 18, 2011 … There is no body, just remains believed to be my sister.

"I had a glimmer of hope Jenny was still alive, that there was a mistake. (Beyond April) … My four-year-old daughter wants to die so she can go see Jenny. My marriage broke down. Both my daughters are seeing a psychologist."

JENNIFER BACHMANN'S BROTHER (name removed on request)

"To know her life was reduced to nothing more than collateral damage in a criminal act of revenge is truly gut-wrenching. She was my constant friend and companion through childhood.

"Jenny was always there for me to offer support and advice from tying shoelaces to getting away with raiding the cookie jar.

"To lose a woman who has been my lifelong friend as well as financial, relationship and general life counsellor for many years, so close to the passing of my wife has had an extremely devastating and emotional effect."

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