Decorated ex-cop blew up his house, claimed $435k insurance

Eamonn Charles Coughlan's Bribie Island home exploded on July 18, 2015. He has now been jailed.
Eamonn Charles Coughlan's Bribie Island home exploded on July 18, 2015. He has now been jailed.

DECORATED ex-cop and former Justice Department public servant Eamonn Charles Coughlan has gone from enforcing the law to spending a year in prison after blowing up his Bribie Island holiday home and trying to claim $435,000 in insurance attached to the property.

The 51-year-old on Monday faced Brisbane District Court where he was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail on one charge of arson and one of attempted fraud.

He will spend 12 months behind bars before the sentence is suspended for four years.

It was a massive fall from grace for the "devoted" father who spent 14 years working for the London Metropolitan Police where he received multiple accolades.

In Australia he forged a strong career in the Queensland Government, working as a compliance officer for the Department of Justice and holding an ethical standards position and other roles across different departments.

He also spent time in the Army Reserves, leaving due to a back injury in 2012.

Coughlan's holiday home exploded on July 18, 2015.

On the day of the fire, Coughlan drove his ute to a pub in the Brisbane suburb of Narangba.

He then returned to the scene on a motorbike, parking it some distance away.

The house exploded shortly after, with the noise heard across Bribie Island.

The blast was so strong that an entire wall was blown off the foundations and aluminium panels landed some 20m away.

Coughlan suffered blow-back burns from the fire, but he fled the scene on the motorbike.

He turned up at the Caboolture Police Station hours later where he learned the investigating officer considered him the only suspect to the crime.

After two aborted trials, he was finally convicted by a jury on both charges .

This was despite his claims that he had nothing to do with it and that the fire could have been started by youths who were seen in the area - but later discounted as offenders.

He also said he was the victim of police corruption.

The jury heard that Coughlan's clothes contained significant traces of petrol, with an arson expert saying it was highly unlikely this came from filling up a car or fuel can or from lawnmowing.

Coughlan was released on bail after the jury's verdict, pending his application to have the conviction quashed by the Queensland Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in April, finding there were some deficiencies in the crown case but that the jury's verdict was solid and would stand.

At Monday's sentencing, Coughlan's defence barrister pleaded for his client to be released on bail again, this time pending an appeal to the High Court of Australia.

Judge Leanne Clare dismissed the bail application saying Coughlan had avoided his punishment for long enough.

Judge Clare noted the arson did not appear to be for financial gain.

She said the house was under-insured with no attempt to increase the value before the fire, that Coughlan had spent around $90,000 and 12 months renovating it in a "labour of love" and that the arsonist did not remove any items of sentimental value before blowing it up.

Judge Clare said the crimes appeared to be out of character and may have been precipitated by "mental health" issues.

"In the absence of any other credible explanation, is it not probable that mental health issues have contributed (to the crimes)," Judge Clare said.

"In a life that has been lived to this point with no known other offending - it does seem to be an aberration.

"He appears to have a deep-seated belief that he was persecuted by the police." - NewsRegional