A SOUTH Grafton man appeared before the Coffs Harbour Local Court yesterday charged with the murder of Michelle Roberts last Friday.
Andrew Sumpton, 47, was also charged with damaging property by fire and was expected to appear in a local court in either Grafton or Coffs Harbour for further mention in coming days.
Sumpton did not apply for bail and no plea was entered.
Coffs/Clarence crime manager Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay held a media conference in Coffs Harbour yesterday morning to announce the arrest, which was made after police interviewed Sumpton on Thursday.
Insp Lindsay confirmed Ms Roberts suffered not only severe burns as a result of the blaze but also "other injuries", but he would not be drawn further, saying the matter was before the court.
He said the police case against Sumpton relied in part on forensic evidence.
"Strike force detectives have worked tirelessly on this ... and have uncovered a vast array of evidence, particularly forensic evidence," he said.
"Part of the investigation relies heavily on forensic evidence including DNA evidence and scientific examination of the scene and also items of property associated with this person now charged with this offence.
"We'll allege that this male was known to the victim."
Asked whether Sumpton was the same man who raised the alarm with neighbours, Inspector Lindsay responded: "We'll allege that he was present at the scene when the fire brigade arrived.
"Part of this investigation has ... looked at how this fire actually started, whereabouts in the house ... and at what time."
One reporter at the scene asked: "Do the police believe the fire was started as a cover-up to murder?"
Insp Lindsay replied: "This man, in addition to a murder charge, has also been charged with damaged property by fire."
Asked whether there would be any other arrests locally over the matter, Insp Lindsay said: "Not at this stage.
"It is very pleasing for a group of detectives from homicide squad and from Coffs/Clarence command to come to this outcome," he said.
"(It happened) in a relatively short time frame for a murder investigation."