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Driver accused of murdering bushfire firefighter Mat Kavanagh is denied bail

Driver accused of murdering firefighter, father of two in forest fires, denied bail after telling police he would ‘disappear’

  • Fireman Mat Kavanagh died while addressing the January forest fires
  • Novak John Selby, 46, has been charged with dangerous driving that caused his death
  • Selby has been denied bail after telling police he would ‘disappear’

A Victorian driver accused of killing a firefighter during the devastating January fires has been bailed after telling police he would “disappear”.

Accused of dangerous driving, Novak John Selby has caused the death of Mathew Kavanagh, whose truck was hit by a car near Lake Eildon on January 3.

Prosecutors say 46-year-old Selby was driving on the wrong side of the road when he hit the passenger side of the vehicle where Mr Kavanagh was sitting.

Accused of dangerous driving, Novak John Selby kills Mathew Kavanagh (pictured), whose truck was hit by a car near Lake Eildon on January 3

Accused of dangerous driving, Novak John Selby kills Mathew Kavanagh (pictured), whose truck was hit by a car near Lake Eildon on January 3

He and the driver, both firefighters from Forest Fire Management Victoria, had extinguished fires in the Big River area and headed for another fire zone.

A bail application revealed that Selby had initially confronted the driver with being on the wrong side of the road.

This was disputed by witnesses, including the fire truck driver, who said that Selby’s red Toyota had “come straight at him.”

Another witness also said they saw Selby crossing the wrong way, while prosecutors noted that the evidence was also supported by investigations by two reconstruction experts.

Selby, who denies the allegations, cried when he was denied bail in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Detective Sergeant Mark Amos had said that Selby seemed “genuinely upset” about what had happened, but revealed plans to flee during an interview.

Kavanagh (pictured with his wife Jude) was a married father of two

Kavanagh (pictured with his wife Jude) was a married father of two

Kavanagh (pictured with his wife Jude) was a married father of two

Magistrate Susan Wakeling accepted that he had told police officers that he was not going to prison and that he would take his partner and son to bush or Thursday Island, where he had previously lived.

She said the prison would be tough on Selby because of the coronavirus health crisis and his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, which resulted from Black Saturday’s 2009 fires.

Selby lived in Narbethong, near Marysville, when the wildfires ripped through the area.

“It is an unfortunate coincidence that this issue arises in conditions of devastating Victorian fires,” said Ms. Wakeling.

But she was not satisfied that there was a way to reduce the risk of him running, or that his partner would cooperate with police attempts to escort him if released.

The possible duration of coronavirus delays is unknown at this stage, she said.

“There is no doubt that there will be delays, but the nature of that delay is currently difficult to determine,” she said.

Selby will return to court on April 28 for a no-obligation statement, the magistrate said, noting that concerns about delays could be re-examined if more is known.

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