The house ablaze at Kallangur in April 2010.
The house ablaze at Kallangur in April 2010. News Corp Australia

Man charged with murdering wife in fire for insurance claim

A FORMER army officer accused of murdering his wheelchair-bound wife in a housefire north of Brisbane allegedly claimed insurance within 24 hours of the blaze.

David Maxwell Knowles, 62, is charged with murder, arson and fraud in relation to the death of his wife Elizabeth, 48, at Kallangur in April 2010.

According to court documents filed in the Brisbane Supreme Court, the Crown alleges Knowles was "at least partly responsible" for orchestrating the fire, which was lit "to make an insurance claim that would result in a cash payment".

It is alleged Knowles lodged a claim within 24 hours of the fatal blaze - and subsequently received $129,000 from his insurer.

"While his wife was still trapped in the house, neighbours were taken aback by his verbal reactions regarding the loss of his dog and his piano organ," the Crown alleged in their submissions.

David Maxwell Knowles is accused of involvement in a housefire that killed his disabled wife.
David Maxwell Knowles is accused of involvement in a housefire that killed his disabled wife. News Corp Australia

But Knowles' lawyers say the Crown's case is weak.

The fire occurred after he and his wife were allegedly involved in a "false" report of at least one burglary in the weeks before her death.

Court documents state an insurance assessor told the couple they would receive compensation in the form of coupons - as cash compensation was generally only given in the wake of a "major incident" such as a fire.

Knowles, who had his matter mentioned again in the Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday, was granted bail in the Supreme Court in Brisbane last month.

Mrs Knowles was trapped and alone in the locked house when it was engulfed by fire, with her husband arriving after it had started.

Neighbours could hear her calling out and she was found in the ensuite of her bedroom, 3-4m from her wheelchair.

Attempts to resuscitate her, after firefighters pulled her from the home, failed.

Elizabeth Knowles perished metres from her wheelchair.
Elizabeth Knowles perished metres from her wheelchair. News Corp Australia

Smoke alarms had been removed from the ceiling and batteries taken out, according to an inquest held in 2014 by Brisbane coroner Christine Clements.

Investigators also concluded it was possible a timing device had been set up above the petrol.

The inquest found Ms Knowles had a "multiplicity of debilitating medical conditions" at the time of her death and her husband was her full-time carer.

The inquest was unable to establish who was involved in disabling the fire detectors and setting up two incendiary positions in the house. The coroner found it remained "undetermined" how she died.

An application had been lodged with the Department of Housing to move before the alleged break-ins, the inquest found, however it was granted to a suburb that was not preferable

According to a police affidavit, Knowles told police he and his wife weren't happy at the Kallangur house.

"The only thing is that maybe she thought that if I got back in time I could save her and they'd move us to a new house maybe. That's the only thing I can think of," he allegedly told police at the time.

When contacted yesterday Knowles said: "Sorry mate, no comment."

News Corp Australia


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