Woman wants bail over fire death

GOONELLABAH mother Sharyn Strickland, acc-used of murdering her lover in a deliberately lit house fire, is alleged to have started a fire at the Milgate Close home just six months before in an apparent attempt to do self harm.

Strickland, 41, appeared yesterday in the Lismore Local Court by way ofvideo-link from Sydney’s Long Bay Jail for a bail application before Magistrate Robyn Denes. The Crown opposed the application because of fears for Strickland’s safety.

Strickland is charged with the murder of Matthew Tansley, 35, on February 8 this year; and with maliciously setting fire to a dwelling house when people were inside at 10.45pm on February 6.

Mr Tansley died in the Royal Brisbane Hospital on February 8 as a result of receiving serious burns in the fire.

Lawyer for Strickland, Hugh van Dugteren, said his client suffered burns to 54 per cent of her body and needed to be released to help with her recovery and get access to proper exercise.

He said the Crown alleged she had ‘foresight’ into her actions and used petrol to start the fire, but there was still doubt over what caused the fire.

Evidence before the magistrate referred to another fire in Strickland’s bedroom on August 24 last year, with emergency services called. Strickland later told a neighbour she tried to kill herself.

Mr van Dugteren said her degree of intoxication on the night of the fatal fire was a very relevant issue, with an application before the court to cross-examine three witnesses on this matter who were staying at her house on the night of the fire.

He acknowledged Strickland had a known drug and alcohol problem and abused prescription medications.

Mr van Dugteren said medical reports stated she needed physical exercise which she could get if given bail to live with her former mother-in-law. The mother-in-law will give evidencetoday.

He said Strickland was moved to Grafton jail for 10 days and because of her burn injuries haddescribed it as ‘a journey from hell’. She was kept in a receptacle smaller than a public toilet, he said.

“She is not a threat to anyone. She has a real desire to get better and knows life will be tough,” he said.

The Crown said a witness in Strickland’s home saw her move a petrol tin inside her house saying: ‘I’ll put it inside in case someone tries to burn my house down.”

Strickland also told a neighbour the first fire ‘was a suicide attempt’.

The bail hearing continues today.

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