A Melbourne building contractor has confessed to the arson attack which destroyed a historic hotel property owned by Collingwood AFL star Dane Swan.
The Melbourne Magistrates Court has heard that Andrew Winston McMahon, a 47 year old building contractor based in Berwick, has admitted to police that he is responsible for the fire that consumed the Albion Hotel in October last year.
Detective Senior Constable Adam Burnett said that McMahon's motivation for the arson attack was panic over his inability to complete the ambitious renovation project for Swan's Albion Hotel on schedule.
The overhaul of the former motel nightclub in South Melbourne was a joint venture involving leading figures from the city's sporting scene, including former Melbourne Storm players Robbie Kearns and Danny Williams, as well as Mathew Darcy, brother of former Western Bulldogs player Luke Darcy.
The project was due for completion just 11 days prior to the arson attack, with backers hoping that the renovated hotel would be ready to do business by the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival.
According to police McMahon started the fire using timber during the small hours of the morning on October 5 last year. The blaze gutted the Albion Hotel as well as caused damage to adjacent properties, with total losses estimated at $5.1 million.
At the time McMahon's building company, Winston Mac Pty Limited, was in an ailing state financially as well as running behind schedule on a number of other projects.
McMahon had previously told police that two men wearing balaclavas had physically assaulted him early in the morning on October 5 last year, and that the hotel building was on fire by the time he came to his senses.
Media reports at the time speculated that outlaw bikie gangs may have been responsible for the blaze, following a spate of attacks over an 18 month period on the strip club Kittens, which is also situated in South Melbourne.
Rumours of criminal involvement were further compounded by the discovery of a case of drugs at a hotel owned by members of the Darcy family in Richmond.
The police instead opted to focus on inside involvement, however, after they discovered that the power supply for the site had been suspended just prior to the fire, rendering the hotel's CCTV cameras inoperable throughout the attack.
McMahon has been charged with one count of arson and is scheduled to face court again on October 5.