Pair accused of Nelson arson deny charges

A man and woman have denied deliberately starting fires in Tasman, at a time when the major Pigeon Valley forest fire was still burning nearby.

Benjamin Phillip Durrant. Source: 1 NEWS

Benjamin Phillip Durrant and a 24-year-old female are jointly accused of arson over a fire in Pigeon Valley on March 6, a crime that carries
a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Durrant, 34, has also been charged with arson over a second fire in Upper Moutere, which flared up a week earlier, causing the evacuation of nearly 100 properties and leaving a hillside scorched.

Durrant appeared via video link today at the Nelson District Court and pleaded not guilty to both charges and elected for a trial by jury.

The woman, who has ongoing name suppression, earlier entered a not guilty plea by written notice.