6 October, 2017
Biker sorry for Kittens strip club blaze
Article witten by SCN. Additional content from Jacqueline Le.
A biker who set fire to the Kittens strip club in Melbourne's southeast has apologized to the owners and asked for a short jail sentence so he can turn his life around.
Comancheros treasurer Mark Ahern, 33, on Friday apologized to the owners of Kittens strip club at Caulfield South for the blaze he and an associate started in February 2016.
"I'm sorry to the owners of Kittens club and also for the police and firefighters who had to go there that night," he told the Victorian County Court.
Police have said they believe a feud between security companies with biker links was behind the attack.
Ahern has pleaded guilty to arson and using a stolen car to travel to the strip club, which he entered by climbing through an air vent on the roof.
The club was closed when Ahern and a second man climbed onto the roof at about 2.30 am on February 16, 2016.
Once inside the club, the men doused a store room with petrol and set it alight.
As they fled, Ahern dropped a piece of clothing containing his DNA.
Ahern's blood was also found nearby as he used a wheelie bin to climb a fence.
"DNA was located in the form of blood left on the wheelie bin and a black baseball cap left on the roof of Kittens," prosecutor Jeremy McWilliams told the court.
Eleven fire engines and dozens of firefighters were needed to bring the blaze under control, and a neighbouring property was evacuated as the club was engulfed by flames.
The fire caused $868,000 in building damage and a further $500,000 loss to the strip club owner, Mr McWilliams said.
Defence barrister David Edwardson QC said the 19-and-a-half months Ahern had spent in custody since the fire had been a "wake-up call" for his client.
"He is at a crossroads. He has to decide between a life which is punctuated by crime and incarceration, or to turn his back on it," he said.
"I will be inviting Your Honour to impose a merciful sentence."
Ahern had been using about 1.5 grams of ice a day before he set fire to the strip club.
"The life I was living was no life. I was existing for drug use," the 33-year- old said.
Ahern has also pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon after police found knuckledusters at his home when they arrested him in April 2016.
Judge Peter Wischusen will sentence Ahern on October 20.