A BITTER Bellingen tradie, who hid out in Queensland after orchestrating an arson attack on his rival neighbour's 140-year-old homestead, is behind bars.
Glenn Kenneth Corda, a well-known plasterer entrenched in the Bellingen drug trade, was the "mastermind" behind a fire at a historic renovated school-house at Brierfield, the Coffs District Court heard this week.
The 48-year-old's neighbour Mark Taylor was on his way home from dinner the night he found the heritage home he bought with his mother's inheritance engulfed by flames.
He suffered burns to his hands trying to fight the blaze but when burned power lines cut his water supply, he was forced to stand back as his possessions were reduced to a mass of "tortured and buckled" rubble.
Immediately, there were rumours the fire had been an insurance job but Mr Taylor remained adamant an ongoing neighbourhood dispute between he and Mr Corda was to blame.
An emotional Mr Taylor recalled yesterday how in the months that followed the fire, he was subjected to homophobic taunts and swipes at his credibility by an "element" of the Bellingen community.
Luckily, his story rang true with two Coffs detectives who persisted with the investigation until they could prove Corda had paid two teenagers $500 each to break into the property, douse the home in petrol and set it alight.
Phone taps later revealed Corda also had crops of marijuana plants growing in the nearby state forest.
He was arrested in Mackay in June last year.
This week he pleaded guilty to accessory before the fact to aggravated break and enter and arson and drug offences.
He was sentenced to a total of five years and six months with his earliest possible release date of June 27, 2016.
During the sentencing hearing it was noted that more than 90% of arson investigations on homes in NSW went unsolved.
Mr Taylor said he was eternally grateful to those who had believed him from the beginning.
"I have had the most wonderful support from friends and I can't thank the police enough for their diligence and willingness to go above and beyond," he said
"They never gave up and as a result, this man is in jail and I can finally think about rebuilding my life."
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