A man accused of pouring accelerant over a woman and setting her on fire with a blowtorch allegedly did so because neighbours were playing music too loudly.
In a bail application, Michael Gauci’s lawyer, Gideon Boas suggested the incident may have been an act of self-defence.
Prosecutors told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday, that Gauci’s wife had allegedly confronted the neighbours shortly before midnight on December 27 last year, asking them to turn down the music they were playing in a townhouse courtyard backing onto their Werribee South property.
They said the group left and headed to the beach, only to return shortly after to see that the music was put back on.
“By that time Gauci had returned home, and power to his home CCTV system had been turned off – at first for 30 minutes when a blow torch and knife were placed on the kitchen bench – and again at 2am” the report said.
Gauci allegedly appeared over the fence and confronted the neighbours about who had spoken to his wife earlier, and when the alleged victim indicated it was her, Gauci challenged her to come and fight his wife in the street.
According to the report, the group met in the driveway where there was a physical altercation between the women, before Gauci allegedly threw a litre of PrepWash – a petroleum distillate – over the other woman.
It added that Gauci ignited a blowtorch and the woman caught fire, with her whole upper body going up in flames, and when she fell to the ground screaming, her friends and housemates rushed to help suppress the flames.
The woman reportedly suffered total thickness burns to 70 per cent of her body, including her face, chest, upper limbs and was given a 30 per cent chance of survival.
She spent seven months in hospital before her transfer to a rehabilitation facility for two months, but still visits hospital three times a week for physiotherapy and speech therapy on top of in-home care twice a week.
The report said multiple surgeries are needed over the next year or two to increase her range of motion, with cosmetic surgeries to follow to repair scar tissue.
Two of her friends reportedly suffered burns requiring medical intervention.
Gauci is charged with attempted murder, intentionally and recklessly causing serious injury and conduct endangering life.
Despite police concerns Gauci posed an ongoing risk to the community or might contact witnesses for the prosecution, Gauci’s lawyer Gideon Boas suggested Gauci met the bail threshold.
He said reasons including a potential two-and-a-half year delay until any trial, and the fact that he has a number of medical and psychological issues that still needed to be addressed.
Magistrate Jarrod Williams raised concerns about a finding he is experiencing mood swings, noting the case against him allegedly involved someone “completely blindsided by anger and completely unable to control their desire for some sort of retribution”.
Gauci’s parents have offered their family home as a surety if he is granted bail.
The Magistrate will hand down his decision next Monday.