Man accused of setting fire to his visitor

A MAN has told a Toowoomba court he had been sprayed with a flammable liquid and set alight by another man he claimed owed him money.

Martin Kreisman, 44, said he and his wife had gone to the then Wilsonton home of Paul David Johnson, 38, about 8am on February 6, last year.

He said he had gone to see Johnson and his partner about money they allegedly owed him.

Mr Kreisman said as he approached Johnson and two other people on the patio, Johnson had grabbed a plastic bottle from the table and sprayed him with a liquid he said smelt like unleaded petrol.

He had lunged forward and suddenly became alight.

Mr Kreisman said he retreated to a birdbath in the front yard where he started to take off his clothes and patted out flames on his body when he claimed Johnson came at him again and sprayed him with a fluid that further ignited the flames.

His wife had then driven him to Toowoomba Hospital, he said.

Opening the case against Johnson, Crown prosecutor Noel Needham said the complainant had sustained burns to 44% of body surface including to his head, face, neck, chest and limbs.

He had also sustained inhalation burns and spent three weeks in an induced coma.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

In a taped interview with police on the day of the incident, which was played the court yesterday, Johnson said the couple had arrived at his home in a white Commodore station wagon, got out and run into his yard.

As they approached on his patio, Kreisman had smashed the home's front window with a steel object he described as looking like an old war hand grenade with a handle, wick and a chain wrapped around it.

A forensic police officer who photographed the device at the scene described it as a "pipe bomb".

A similar device was found by police in the front passenger foot well of the Kreismans' car that day, a photograph of which was also shown to the court.

Mr Kreisman told the court he had never seen the device before.

Police photographs taken of the work shed in the backyard of the Kreismans' then Hogg St residence showed welding rods, a welder and other equipment.

He claimed Johnson had sprayed him with a liquid from a clear bottle, and as he lunged toward Johnson a cigarette lighter had appeared and struck him, though he didn't know from where the lighter had come.

However, in his police interview, Johnson said he had a fire extinguisher containing kerosene, which he had intended using to spray weeds in his front rock garden that morning.

He said the couple were wearing safety glasses and Kreisman's wife was screaming at her husband to do something.

He said as the complainant approached him he noticed he had a plastic bottle squirting liquid and so he had sprayed kerosene at the pair in an attempt to ward them off.

"I thought if they smell kero they'd back off a bit," he said.

He said suddenly there was a "fireball" in front of him.

"The next thing I saw was Tiny (Mr Kreisman) at the bottom of the steps on fire," he said.

As Mr Kreisman took off his burning clothes, Johnson said he had gone to get a hose to put out the fire, but the couple had left.

Asked by police if he had had a cigarette lighter on him at the time, Johnson said he had nothing on him as he had not long been out of bed.

He said he didn't know what the source of the fire was and thought Mr Kreisman must have produced the lighter.

Johnson told police he had one hand on the fire extinguisher and one on the nozzle so he couldn't have lit anything.

The trial before District Court Judge Sarah Bradley continues.

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