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Victoria's arson investigation to remain open -

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Reporter: Simon Lauder

ELEANOR HALL: Police in Victoria say they've conducted more than 1000 interviews in their efforts
to find an arsonist believed to be responsible for dozens of deaths in last month's bushfire at
Marysville.

But none of the people interviewed say they saw arson being committed and police say the
investigation could take at least another year.

Simon Lauder has our report.

SIMON LAUDER: On Saturday the 7th of February, a local farmer saw a column of smoke rising into the
air near Murrindindi Mill. That was the start of a fire which later that day merged with the
Kilmore fire and swept southwards to St Andrews, killing 12 people.

The fire moved towards Kinglake and Kinglake West, killing 42 people and then onto Marysville,
where 34 people perished.

Today Victoria Police assistant commissioner, Dannye Moloney, held a media conference to provide an
update on the arson investigation, known as Taskforce Phoenix.

DANNYE MOLONEY: I am confident that we have got significant leads that are directing us towards a
resolution of this issue.

SIMON LAUDER: Assistant commissioner Moloney won't say what those leads are, but he says the police
have dedicated a lot of resources to the task.

DANNYE MOLONEY: For example yesterday we had 183 members out there taking statements, interviewing
people, collecting evidence in regards to the matter. So far, I think it was as of yesterday, we
had taken 1,110 statements.

It is estimated that to complete this enquiry at this point and as you can appreciate, it can only
grow, we would expect to take another 3,000 plus statements by the end of this enquiry.

SIMON LAUDER: One detail the assistant commissioner reveals is that police don't have an eye
witness to the arson.

DANNYE MOLONEY: We are looking for anybody that was in that area to supply us with the information
of who was in the vicinity? Did they see anybody? Did they speak to anybody? Did they observe
anybody coming to and from the area around about that time of day?

Which was as far as I am concerned, anytime during the daylight hours prior to the fire? That is
important to us.

SIMON LAUDER: Have police spoken to anyone who thinks they saw arson being committed?

DANNYE MOLONEY: No, that did not happen.

SIMON LAUDER: As well as finding the firebug, Dannye Moloney says the police have to speak to the
thousands of people who lost a property to the fire. He says investigators will be doing interviews
and gathering evidence for another year, or even 18 months and the arson case won't close until
someone is prosecuted.

DANNYE MOLONEY: It is an objective of Victoria Police that no investigation of this nature ever
closes. I am still actively investigating unsolved murders from many, many years ago. This is a
serious criminal offence resulting in significant death. This investigation will never close until
it is resolved.

SIMON LAUDER: The Marysville fire is only one of three being treated as arson by police, but so far
only one person has been charged. Thirty-nine-year-old Brendan Sokaluk is charged with lighting the
Gippsland fire and is due to face a committal hearing in May.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Lauder reporting.