Google searches reveal ‘sinister thoughts’ of arsonist
It was coincidence after coincidence that stacked up against Daniel Boyd Bromilow, and his volunteering of information, which led to the unravelling of his claim someone burnt his house down.
Crown prosecutor Samantha O’Rourke said Bromilow had motives, means and opportunity when he deliberately set his Naughton St, Wandal, house on fire on May 28, 2019, with plans to use an insurance payout to build a new home.
Bromilow pleaded not guilty to charges of arson and attempted fraud in Rockhampton District Court on May 24, 2021, in relation to the fire which destroyed his residence two years ago.
He told police during his interview in June 2019 he did not set fire to his house.
The jury retired to deliberate at 2.45pm Monday and reached a verdict of guilty on both charges just after 5pm (March 29).
Read more here: Accused arsonist left ‘trail’ to blame someone else
“Make no bones about it, the defendant Daniel Bromilow deliberately set fire to his house,” Ms O’Rourke said.
“Looking at the evidence collectively allows you to see that some probabilities can become so remote and so improbable they can readily be put to one side,” she said.
“They no longer rationally explain the facts before you.”
Ms O’Rourke said Bromilow had a financial motive, he made Google searches for “make fire burn hotter” and “make fire burn hotter rather than faster”, he said to his godmother “it would be a favour if his house burnt down”, he was the last one seen at his house and he had set up a false trail, and looked at it collectively, “it becomes a fanciful notion that the fire that occurred on that day was the result of an accident or an electrical fault”.
“The defendant would have to be a very very unlucky man for that to be the case,” she said.
Ms O’Rourke said the Google searches showed “the sinister thoughts that were in the defendant’s mind”.
Ms O’Rourke said the bullets Mr Bromilow claimed he found scattered in his front yard on May 14 was where Bromilow’s story started unravelling.
She pointed to the evidence of what Bromilow told detectives Senior Constable Mitchell Berry and Senior Sergeant Kevin Maudsley on June 4, 2019, that included initially saying he had kept the bullets he had purchased in December in the gun safe, and then changed to them being kept in a toolbox.
Ms O’Rourke said it was only after police pointed out no toolbox was found at the property that Bromilow claimed the toolbox had been stolen.
She said Bromilow had also claimed the police officer who collected the bullets told him they were CCI (brand) bullets, which were the same as those he purchased in December, however the evidence of the officers who attended was neither that told the defendant such information.
“It reveals him to be the person who planted them,” Ms O’Rourke said.
Ms O’Rourke said it was an “evolving story where the defendant tried to talk himself out of trouble while digging himself a deeper hole”.
“The defendant talks and talks in that interview and that’s largely how he got himself into trouble,” she said.
She said the defendant acted like a man “clutching desperately to straws, he volunteers information without being asked”.
Ms O’Rourke said with regards to the letter Bromilow claimed he found on his car on May 18, there was no direct threat of a fire, just reference to a blaze.
“The whole purpose of that letter seems to be fawning over the defendant,” she said.
“It’s sentence after sentence to compliment (Bromilow).
“As a matter of common sense, that wouldn’t be happening if you were threatening somebody.”
Ms O’Rourke said the letter also appeared to contain personal information including how he wanted to join the military.
“Then there are the religious overtones at the bottom of the letter … and reference at the top to the Book of Daniel,” she said.
“The defendant admits in his interview he was a religious man and he goes to Bible studies.”
Ms O’Rourke said afterwards, he claimed he only studied this information after he received the letter.
She claimed the letter was “a poor attempt” by Bromilow to cast the blame onto another suspect such as the alleged letter writer.
Ms O’Rourke said the knife and note Bromilow alleged he found on the steps on May 27 was not left in a location considered a “threatening space”.
She then referred to the milk bottle petrol bomb Bromilow claimed he found on his front steps around midday on the day of the house fire.
Ms O’Rourke said Bromilow should have heard someone walk up the wooden steps of the house before the alleged door knock.
She also questioned how a person would have run from clear view before Bromilow allegedly answered the door knock.
Ms O’Rourke pointed to the testimony of Bromilow’s wife, Codey, from March 26 where the court heard there was no cow’s milk in their house at that time as they were both intolerant of it.
“If the defendant had gone so far out of his way to set up the false trail, it wouldn’t have been difficult to go out and purchase a bottle of milk,” she said.
Ms O’Rourke said Bromilow had access to the photograph as it was his wife’s Facebook cover image, the bullets he purchased in December, the knife which evidence revealed was only supplied to JBS Meatworks where Bromilow worked in security, and he had access to flammable liquid.
Ms O’Rourke said it was “highly unbelievable” that someone watched Bromilow for weeks and waited for the perfect time to act.
“There is no evidence, other than the house burning down, that he was involved in any illegal activity,” she said.
Ms O’Rourke said the jury could exclude other hypotheses due to the amount of personal details in the threats, the lack of evidence of who would be targeting Bromilow, the lack of money one could gain from him by way of threats, that the threats did not appear to be at a random target and that there was no evidence of involvement by family members Bromilow identified as being vindictive.
“There is only one reasonable, one rational, one realistic explanation for it – the defendant deliberately set his house on fire and two days later, called his insurance about a claim,” she said.
Defence barrister Michael Labone said his client was not seen by anyone lighting the fire, he had not confessed to it and the fire investigators could not determine a cause of fire.
He said this was a circumstantial case and there was a “chance of wrongful conviction in this case”.
“The chance of a wrongful conviction in this case have been magnified because some things were missed by police investigating this matter,” Mr Labone said.
He pointed to the evidence put to the jury about the police officer who went to Bromilow’s residence on May 14 and picked up a bullet from the grass, without wearing gloves, and placed it in the clip-seal bag Bromilow had put the other bullets he had located in.
Mr Labone said the bullets were never checked for DNA or fingerprints.
He said the owner of the shop, where Bromilow purchased bullets from in December 2018 and police went to make enquiries, told the court the shop sold 5000 of those bullets every month.
Mr Labone said another DNA and fingerprint opportunity police missed was with a red jerry can found at the house – one of three located by police under Bromilow’s house after the fire – and the milk bottle of fuel left on the front step which Bromilow claimed he hosed down and police placed in the wheelie bin.
“You don’t have that information available to you to exclude other possibilities,” he said.
Mr Labone went through each of the circumstantial pieces of evidence where, he claimed, there was not enough evidence one way or another.
He pointed to the silver sedan Bromilow claimed he saw parked at the back of his house on the day of the fire, which police did make enquiries about but were unable to go much further due to lack of information obtained.
Mr Labone also pointed to the 30 minute window between when Bromilow last left the house, to pick his wife up from work, until the first person noticed the fire.
He said the case was further complicated because it was unknown how the fire started.
Mr Labone said Bromilow was caring for his 19-month-old daughter on the day of the fire and questioned how would he be able to throw petrol around while looking after his daughter.
He then put it to the jury that if his client had deliberately set his house on fire, why wouldn’t he have done it on one of the two days his daughter was in daycare so she was not home while Bromilow was dealing with flammable substances.
Mr Labone said the fact the Bromilows were ‘making ends meet’, like most other families, was not suspicious, and the new house plans were “nothing out of the ordinary” for a young couple looking forward with their lives.
He said there was no evidence to say the increase of the insurance to $350,000 was excessive or not.
Bromilow will be sentenced in Rockhampton District Court at 9am on March 30.
December 2018 – Bromilow purchased 50 rounds of .22 calibre ammunition.
March 3, 2019 – House fire on Wandal Rd.
March 2, 2019 - April 4, 2019 – Bromilow claims doorknockers visited his house and questioned if his insurance sufficiently covered a house fire, demolition and rebuild.
April 4, 2019 – Bromilow increased his house insurance from $240,000 to $350,000. His contents insurance remained valued at $53,000.
April 16 – First face-to-face meeting with Daniel Carr from Chris Warren Homes regarding rebuilding on 6 Naughton St, Wandal, block. Communication continued until May 22 with an agreement reached May 21 between Chris Warren Homes and Bromilow which included a $1000 deposit.
April 30 – Bromilow attended Rockhampton Regional Council regarding purchasing a block of land behind his house.
May 9, 2019 – Forensic examination of Bromilow’s mobile revealed he searched on Google about where to stay after a fire and assistance after a fire in the middle of the day. Hours later, at 8.30pm, Bromilow attended the Rockhampton Police Station with a photograph of himself, his wife Codey and daughter. The words “burn property” were written on the back in black ink.
May 14 – Bromilow calls police, claiming he found bullets scattered in his front yard.
May 15 – Bromilow Googled “how to make fire burn hotter”, “how to make fire burn hotter rather than quicker” and other fire related searches.
May 18 – Bromilow claimed he found a white envelope on his car windscreen under the wiper blade and it contained two copies of the same letter addressed to him – one he kept and the other he gave to police.
May 24 – Bromilow’s godmother Joanne Keevers visited, read the letter, answered Bromilow’s questions about how long it would take for his house to burn down and how long it would take for the fire service to respond. Ms Keevers once worked for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services for eight years as a communications officer. And he made the comment “it would do him a favour if somebody burned his house down”.
May 27 – Bromilow called police claiming he had found a knife and a note on his front steps.
May 28 – Around lunchtime, Bromilow claimed he found a petrol bomb in a plastic milk bottle on his front steps and he used a hose to wash down the steps in case fuel had seeped into the wood. A neighbour gave evidence they saw Bromilow packing items into his car that afternoon. Bromilow was the last person seen at the house and he left just after 3pm to pick his wife up from work and they went for coffee. They received a call from a neighbour saying their house was on fire.
May 30 – Bromilow contacted his insurance company about making a claim in relation to the house fire. He did not obtain any funds.