Errol Lindsay surveys the charred remains of his fishing boat at Lake Cootharaba.
Errol Lindsay surveys the charred remains of his fishing boat at Lake Cootharaba. John McCutcheon

Arson attack on Boreen Pt trawlers hard to fathom

LIFELONG mates Errol Lindsay and John Clarke are struggling to understand why someone would destroy their boats.

The pair, with more than a century of commercial fishing between them, were shattered to learn someone had set fire to their vessels anchored in Lake Cootharaba at Boreen Point overnight.

They have moored their vessels at the lake's edge for decades. They attended primary school together at Pomona State School.

Mr Lindsay, 76, built the 7m general purpose net boats and many more like them in his shed on Cootharaba Rd about 20 years ago.

With nets, navigation equipment and other gear taken into account, the men said the fires had cost them more than $20,000 each.

"The sad part about it is I had just replaced the nets,” Mr Lindsay said.

"It's heartbreaking.”

He said his and Mr Clarke's boats were about 35m apart when he last left the lake.

Their charred shells were side-by-side on the bank when he returned after getting a call from Mr Clarke on Saturday morning.

Firefighters had dragged them in to extinguish the last of the smouldering remains.

"Obviously just vandals have done it,” Mr Lindsay said.

"Somebody who hates the commercial fishers.”

He said a large, new marine battery appeared to have been stolen from his boat.

"They've obviously taken the battery.

"My daughter had sprayed it fluoro pink all over.”

His wife Julie Lindsay was also devastated.

She said there had been a few nasty incidents over the years but nothing as serious as the fires.

"That's what the police said,” Mrs Lindsay said.

"This is next level- this is arson.”

Mr Clarke, 73, said somebody had taken the bung out of his boat while it was anchored last week and cut a fuel line.

"A lot of people don't like fisherman,” Mr Clarke said.

"They think you are catching all of the fish.”

His wife Margaret Clarke said she was awoken by police knocking at their door about 2.30am.

She had earlier seen the lights of a fire truck but had not realised why they were there.

"When you see two police standing at the door you think 'I've got daughters, something has gone wrong'.”

Mr Clarke said he was speechless when they told him of the fires.

"I just couldn't believe anyone would do that.”

Both men have secondary boats but expect they will be off the water for a while as they replace nets and other necessary equipment.

Mr Clarke said he only went out one night a week to catch mullet which he then sold fresh to locals.

Mr Lindsay said he went out more often.

"It's been my life,” Mr Lindsay said.

"We've got to start all over again.”

Police said around 1.30am two 5m mullet trawlers anchored in waist deep water approximately 20m from shore and 60m apart were destroyed by fire.

"The distance between the vessels indicates the fires were independent of each other,” a spokesperson said.

"A crime scene has been declared and investigations continue.

"Anyone in the area at the time with CCTV or dashcam footage is urged to contact police.

"If you have information for police, contact Policelink on 131 444 or provide information using the online form 24 hours per day.”

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