Misfit now Victoria's worst killer

A former volunteer firefighter has become Victoria's worst killer after being found guilty of starting a Black Saturday bushfire that killed 10 people.

Misfit Brendan James Sokaluk, 42, was found guilty by a Victorian Supreme Court jury on Tuesday of 10 counts of arson causing death over the February 2009 fire at Churchill in Victoria's east.

He did not react as the jury forewoman announced the verdict after five days of deliberations.

The verdict means Sokaluk is Victoria's worst killer.

Sokaluk, who has autism spectrum disorder and a mild intellectual disability, faces up to 25 years in prison on each of the 10 counts.

Before Black Saturday, Sokaluk spent his time collecting scrap metal and tinkering in his shed while listening to Bob the Builder songs.

He was a simple man, who talked to his dog like it was a child and who had been teased for being different.

Outside court, Sokaluk's barrister, Jane Dixon, said her client was shattered and an appeal was likely.

During the month-long trial, jurors were told Sokaluk lit the fire on February 7, 2009, in two locations near each other.

Fanned by strong winds and hot conditions, the fire grew to cover 36,000 hectares, destroyed 156 homes and claimed 10 lives.

Sokaluk's car broke down on Glendonald Road less than two kilometres from the pine plantation where the fire began.

In a police interview, Sokaluk admitted starting the fire, but said it was an accident.

"So I was smoking, and had a burnt bit fell off to the floor, so I used a bit of paper to pick it up," he told police.

"I didn't properly so I squished it out sort of thing, and when I threw the paper on the road it ignited."

Prosecutor Ray Elston SC told jurors Sokaluk spun a series of lies to locals and police to hide his guilt.

"When the accused man arrives at that intersection, there is no fire," he told the trial.

"No-one else is suggested to be present. When he leaves, it's ablaze.

"All causes save for deliberate ignition of this fire have been eliminated.

"There is only therefore one irresistible conclusion to draw from the totality of the material, with respect, we suggest, and that is the accused man set those fires at two points."

In her closing address, Ms Dixon said Sokaluk was a simple man and a misfit.

She said her client was not capable of telling a web of lies to police.

Ms Dixon told jurors Sokaluk's police record of interview, in which he was helpful, cooperative and straightforward, was the most important piece of evidence in the trial.

"This was no calculated, contrived account," she said.

"This was no contrived web of lies and deceit."

On Tuesday, a visibly disappointed Ms Dixon told reporters Sokaluk was shattered by the verdict.

"I think it's likely there will be an appeal," she said.

Before the verdict Sokaluk, who was wearing a green, short-sleeved shirt, chewed on his lip as he waited for the judge to come on to the bench.

He looked towards the jury box as the verdict was read out, but made no visible response to the decision.

As the verdict was delivered, a couple in the front row of court, who had held hands awaiting the verdict, smiled and embraced.

Sokaluk, who was a CFA volunteer from 1987 to 1988, will face a pre-sentence hearing on a date to be fixed.

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