Case 142

The Churchill Fire

Australia is no stranger to bushfires. But when Victorian Premier John Brumby warned residents that the weather conditions for February 7, 2009, could be “the worst day in the history of the state,” no one could have predicted the damage that lay ahead. 

400 fires raged around the state, resulting in the highest loss of human life caused by a fire that Australia had ever seen. The tragedy came to be known as ‘Black Saturday’, but it soon became apparent that natural disaster wasn’t the only evil force at play.



Casefile Presents



Research & writing – Milly Raso

Creative direction – Milly Raso

Narration – Anonymous Host



‘Flatline intro’ and ‘Come play with me’ intro and outro –

Audio production – Mike Migas 

Scoring – Mike Migas and Andrew Joslyn



Logo and website design – Paulina Szymanska




The Churchill Fire – Chapter 9

The Churchill Fire – Chapter 17



The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire – by Chloe Hopper



‘Worst day in history’: Brumby warns of fire danger – The Age

Flight from fire led to tragedy – The Sydney Morning Herald

Husband tells of death in a rain of ‘red bullets’ – The Sydney Morning Herald

Rudd angrily denounces ‘mass murder’ arsonists – ABC News

Australian web vigilantes call for alleged arsonist Brendan Sokaluk to be ‘burned at the stake’ – The Telegraph

Accused Black Saturday arsonist an ‘easy target’ – ABC

Father of accused arsonist describes son as ‘slow’ – ABC

Guilty verdict for Black Saturday arsonist Brendan Sokaluk – The Australian

Former CFA trainee guilty of Black Saturday arson deaths – Herald Sun

Black Saturday arsonist jailed for almost 18 years – ABC

Appeal against Black Saturday arsonist Brendan James Sokaluk’s sentence dismissed – Herald Sun

Gippsland remembers lives lost on Black Saturday – ABC

Gippsland marks fires anniversary – ABC News

Inside the mind of an arsonist – ABC

On the arsonist’s trail: inside Australia’s worst bushfire catastrophe – The Guardian

Chloe Hopper: Investigating the culpability and motive of an arsonist – The Sydney Morning Herald

Is Black Saturday arsonist Brendan Sokaluk a misfit or monster? – Herald Sun

Half a decade after Black Saturday, towns are still rebuilding – Herald Sun

Deadly arson attack: inside the Black Saturday fires – Who

Tribute vandalised – Latrobe Valley Express

Arson legacy: ‘I weep in the deepest places in my soul’ – The Age



R v Brendan James Sokaluk – Supreme Court of Victoria

DPP v Brendan James Sokaluk – Court of Appeal



The burning question – Australian Story



The Firesetting Intervention Programme for Mentally Disordered Offenders – University of Kent

2009 Churchill Fires – Community Bushfire Connection





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