Arsonist convicted of costly fire spree

Ian Dutton Times Colonist Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Kenneth Alexander Grabowski, who went on a fire-setting spree in Victoria and Saanich on May 25, 2000, has been convicted on six counts of arson in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

His sentencing is set for March 18.

Grabowski was charged with seven counts of arson and three counts of setting fires where he knew or should have known people were inside the building.

Seven fires were set between April 7 and June 22, 2000, causing at least $3 million in damage.

Five were ignited in a 90-minute span on the morning of May 25, destroying a Revelstoke lumber yard at Bay Street and Tyee Road in Vic West, and causing damage at a motel, a workshop, and two houses.

Saanich Police media liaison officer Const. Chris Horsley said the file was one of the most complex the department has dealt with.

Sgt. Ross Poulton was the lead investigator on the case, which included investigators from Saanich and Victoria fire departments, Victoria and Saanich police, the RCMP and the FBI.

Insp. John Charlton said that Grabowski was arrested the night of the fires but there was insufficient evidence to hold him. Grabowski was an active suspect when he eluded police surveillance and that night touched off a fire at the Pacific Forestry Centre in Saanich.

Charlton said the investigation used forensic laboratory facilities from both the RCMP and FBI, as well as those agencies' behavioural science labs.

"That type of interagency and international co-operation is increasingly common," Charlton said. "It's an example of thinking outside the box and pursuing all possible evidence."

Charlton said arson attacks on occupied homes were apparently random, raising real concern for public safety.

Grabowski was convicted in 1991 of nine counts of arson for a string of fires in Winnipeg, and sentenced to eight years in prison. He was paroled from William Head Institution in Metchosin to Vernon, then was sent to Kent prison in the Fraser Valley after his parole was revoked.

After completing his sentence at Kent, he made his way to Victoria.

His first trial related to the Victoria fires began Feb. 21, 2002. Fifty-four days later it ended in a mistrial.

Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)

I also note the cross-border interaction... good job to all involved.