Expert profiles an active arsonist

AN unemployed man, in his late 20s, living on the outskirts of the city, is the typical profile of an arsonist.

As Rockhampton police continue to investigate if bushfires across the region were deliberately lit, an expert yesterday told The Morning Bulletin people who lit fires were looking for drama and attention.

Michelle Mulvihill, a doctor of psychology, said arsonists made themselves the centre of the drama and often started a fire, hung around and even helped in fighting it.

They tended to be from poorer suburbs and were serial offenders, often having committed crimes in the past that included arson or violence.

Dr Mulvihill has worked all over Australia as a psychologist for 29 years and spoke with convicted arsonists who showed no remorse for their actions.

She said research showed even after they're locked up, arsonists continue to reoffend.

Dr Mulvihill said a recent study found 89% of arsonists were men and the mean age was around 27.

She said a quarter were juveniles.

“These are angry young people. There is something that they are extremely upset about ... this gives them something to do and I think it's also a cry for help,” Dr Mulvihill said.

“People who start bushfires ... have no idea about the widespread devastation.

“It's a way of them saying something to the world.”

Dr Mulvihill said most arsonists she'd spoken to were unremorseful but others took responsibility for what they'd done.

“One (arsonist) I spoke to, who was a member of a rural fire service and was in jail, was deeply ashamed by what he had done.

“What he had done was set up a situation where he thought he could come across to his boss as a hero because he would know where the fire was and where it was going.”

Dr Mulvihill said police should take a more pro-active role in tracking and monitoring known arsonists.



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