SYDNEY, Australia,May 27 – A man accused of deliberately lighting a deadly blaze that ripped through a Sydney nursing home in 2011, killing 11 elderly residents, on Monday pleaded guilty to murder.
Roger Dean, 37, was a nurse at the facility and entered 11 guilty pleas to murder on the first day of his trial in the Supreme Court.
He also admitted eight counts of causing grievous bodily harm to other mostly infirm residents of the home, some of whom suffered from dementia or were blind.
Three residents perished during the inferno Dean started and eight others died later from their injuries. The court has previously heard Dean started the blaze at two separate points in the building, which was badly damaged.
At the time Dean was described by locals as a friendly but quiet man who kept to himself and he was initially hailed a hero after fronting media outside the home as firefighters battled to contain the flames.
He told reporters then that he “just quickly did what I could to get everyone out”.
“The smoke is just overwhelming but, you know, we got a lot of people out, so that’s the main thing,” he said in 2011.
Reports said family members of the victims in the packed court room wiped away tears and one woman was left sobbing. Others were seen weeping outside.
Elly Valkay, whose 90-year-old mother Neeltje Valkay was killed in the fire, said the guilty plea was the best outcome they could hope for.
“My perfect scenario was that he would stand up in court and say guilty to all charges. My prayers were answered,” she told reporters, adding that she still had nightmares over the way her mother died.
“There has been upheaval in our family because we miss her so much. There has been nights of no sleep … I still have nightmares.”
The fire led to the New South Wales state government ordering a review of criminal screening of staff at nursing homes and an audit of buildings at all aged care facilities.
Although the home had fire doors and fire extinguishers, it did not have a sprinkler system.
Dean will be sentenced at a later date.