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Victoria Police issue arrest warrant for Melbourne amusement hire operator accused of arson against competitors

Victoria Police issue arrest warrant for Melbourne amusement hire operator accused of arson against competitors
May 3, 2019

An amusement business owner accused of insurance fraud and launching arson attacks on competitors has failed to appear in Court to answer charges.

Facing 10 counts of arson, Awesome Party Hire owner James Balcombe missed a County Court appearance yesterday (Thursday 2nd May) with Victoria Police now having issued a warrant for his arrest.

Police are now seeking the public's assistance to find the 54-year old.

In a bid to dominate the Melbourne jumping castle market, Balcombe is accused of inciting and paying two men to torch five rival businesses between December 2016 and February 2017.

The businesses - in Hallam, Tullamarine, Keysborough, Werribee and Warragul - were hit by a combined 10 fires, with one of those blazes allegedly causing $1 million damage, destroying dozens of jumping castles, along with a stretch limousine and a mechanical bull.

Police allege Mr Balcombe offered $2000 to his worker and other associates for every rival business that was hit.

He is also accused of having a shed on his Kangaroo Ground property set alight, in March 2017, in an attempt to divert suspicion away from him.

Victoria Police suggest he is often in the Mernda and Eltham areas, and is described as Caucasian with long grey hair, glasses and a medium build.

However, Police have struggled to find Balcombe in recent months.

He was due to face trial on 4th February but the County Court heard at the time that he had not met bail conditions for weeks.

Judge Mark Gamble asked Balcombe's lawyer where he was, to which defence counsel Sam Norton replied: "I don't know."

Efforts to track Balcombe down through his bank records, CentreLink payments, telephone tracking and call logs, and social media use had all been exhausted, the Court heard at the time, and family members had told Police they didn't know where he was. He hadn't left Australia using his passport.

Police issued a warrant for his arrest in mid-December last year after he had failed to have any contact with his solicitors since November.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.

Image shows Awesome Party Hire's sumo suit attraction.

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