A historic church recently restored to its former glory is one of three buildings that has been damaged or destroyed in an arson attack in the small Tasmanian town of Dover.
Police are questioning a man over the fire at the St Mary Our Hope Catholic Church, which destroyed the rear of the building and caused smoke and water damage.
He is also being questioned about a fire that destroyed an unoccupied house, causing a loss of $300,000, as well as a burglary and attempted fire at a third property.
Tasmanian Police Inspector Grant Twining said witnesses helped identify the man who was now assisting police.
“The person we are speaking to about [the fires] is known to the people who have suffered these fires, and we’ve responded to it very, very quickly,” Inspector Twining said.
“We’ve identified who we believe it is, and we’re acting on that.”
The church fire has devastated the community of about 1,000 people.
A group of volunteers had just spent two years restoring the church to commemorate 150 years since its opening.
The church was designed by well-known Hobart architect Henry Hunter, and opened one year after the township of Dover was proclaimed in 1866.
“There’s no doubt that this is an attack on the Dover community as a whole, but I think that the church parishioners are very resilient, and they’ll be dismayed,” Father Michael Tate said.
“But I’m sure they’ll rally to restore it to its former glory.”
Police are asking anyone with information about the fires to call 131 444.