Hotel licensee set to plead not guilty

Tim Clarke and Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser

Two of the five men accused of setting fire to Albany’s historic Premier hotel, including its licensee, have indicated they will deny involvement in the alleged plan.

Graeme Roderick Cooper and Karl Hutchinson made a brief appearance in custody in the Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court in Perth yesterday, accused of various charges including arson, attempted fraud and endangering the life, health and safety of a person.

Mr Cooper had previously indicated he would plead not guilty to the charges, linked to the blaze which caused up to $2 million in damage and allegedly endangered the lives of four people who were staying upstairs at the hotel.

He confirmed that intention today, with pleas set to be entered during the next appearance next month on April 5.

Three more co-accused Scott Jon Gay, Christopher Lyndon Paterson and Aaron Mark Hasson, who are also all still in custody, are said to be in negotiations with prosecutors.

They will also all appear in court again on April 12.

Following the incident, Mr Cooper had told police that two men wearing disguises had confronted him in the early hours of May 13 before allegedly stealing money from the safe and setting the building alight.

After detectives released composite images and CCTV footage of the moment of the alleged attack, they then arrested two men, before arresting Cooper himself.

The court was previously told at a bail application for Mr Gay late last year, Mr Cooper was the alleged mastermind behind the plan to stage a robbery and set the struggling business alight in a bid to fraudulently gain a $3 million insurance claim.

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