Fake detective sets man on fire in his living room
Oblivious to the horror about to come, Bucasia man Paul Stockton woke to a knock at his door.
A man dressed in nice clothing and carrying a plastic cup, introduced himself as a detective. He said he had a couple of questions.
It was 11.30pm on July 25 as Mr Stockton invited the man into his home and was instructed to sit on the couch.
"You want to mess with kids, do you?" the visitor said, an allegation proven to be untrue.
The strange man tossed the cup's contents, petrol, onto Mr Stockton's bare chest, pulled a lighter from his pocket and set fire to his body.
Screaming, Mr Stockton tried to extinguish the blaze by rolling on floor, but the man pinned him down and began punching him in the face.
Mr Stockton managed to flee from the living room and entered a bedroom, attempting to roll on a doona to extinguish the fire.
Mackay Supreme Court yesterday heard the stranger followed him into the bedroom, and reached over the bed to continue trying to beat him.
"You are dead. Don't mess with kids," he said.
Defence barrister Paul Rutledge told the court the allegations made that night were untrue.
Anton Van Eldik, 48, pleaded guilty to malicious act with intent and arson.
The house had begun to burn after Van Eldik's actions, with 95 per cent of Mr Stockton's possessions, including family photos, destroyed.
The court heard Van Eldik attempted to silence the fire alarm and as he left the home he told Mr Stockton to put out the fire.
Mr Stockton fled the home, informing neighbours of the fire who then phoned the local fire brigade.
Not long after, a white dual cab Hilux was seen driving slowly down the street with its lights off.
Police discovered the fake detective and a jerry can of petrol in the vehicle.
Van Eldik was today sentenced to eight and half years in prison, with the possibility of parole in July 2022 after four years served.
Justice David North said the "premeditated and planned" vigilante attack was one that would make most people recoil.
He described it as "vicious", "shameful" and "wanton".
"You intended to do some grievous bodily harm to Paul Stockton and unlawfully threw at him an explosive substance, that being petrol, and … you wilfully and unlawfully set fire to him," Justice North said.
In a victim statement read to the court, Mr Stockton said he had suffered burns to half of his chest, his back and his right arm, which took "approximately three weeks to heal".
He also stated he now suffered trust issues.
Mr Rutledge said Van Eldik had suffered a number of grievances before the assault, including drug addiction to methylamphetamines and prescription opioids - prescribed for a previous major back injury -, the breakdown of his marriage, and periods of depression and anxiety.
At the time of the offence, Van Eldik was employed as a cook in Mackay.
He has a history of unlawful assault from 2011 to 2017 and has already served 572 days in custody. He will be eligible for parole on July 26, 2022.