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Not guilty verdict after man fatally set stranger’s house on fire while it burned

Written by Javed Iqbal

A man who set fire to a stranger’s house, smashed his windows and laughed as the building was engulfed in flames is not criminally responsible for murder, a court has found.

Cameron Johnston, 49, died of carbon monoxide poisoning on the evening of July 31, 2020, after Harley Thompson, 28, smashed the windows of his Bomaderry home in southern NSW and poured petrol inside.

Harley Thompson was arrested in 2020 for the murder of Cameron Johnston.

Harley Thompson was arrested in 2020 for the murder of Cameron Johnston.Credit:Nine news

Thompson, who lived nearby, had attended the home twice that night before setting the fire, shouting profanities and smashing Johnston’s car and the house’s windscreen.

Johnston, who was at home with her 18-year-old son, called triple zero at 9:03 p.m. and 9:46 p.m. and said in one of the calls that a “scary” person had “broken all the windows, almost” and was yelling “get the c— out.” Both times the police arrived, the attacker had already left.

When Thompson visited the home a third time, at 10:39 p.m., a panicked Johnston called triple zero again to say the stranger had “thrown gasoline through the window” and described it as a “firebomb” that had set the whole house on fire.

Firefighters respond to the house fire in Bomaderry in 2020.

Firefighters respond to the house fire in Bomaderry in 2020.Credit:Nine news

He said he was trying to hide from the man who set the fire and didn’t want to go outside because “he’s killing us”, and urged emergency services to hurry.

When an operator urged Johnston to leave the house, he asked how far away the police were. He started coughing and was soon overcome by smoke and could no longer speak. His son managed to escape the fire with the family dog.

A neighbor told a judge-only trial in the NSW Supreme Court that he heard Johnston’s son shouting “Daddy, daddy, daddy” while Thompson laughed, sounding almost agitated and shouting “burn c— burn”.

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Javed Iqbal

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