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March 21, 2023

Byron’s Bay’s Black Pearl goes up in smoke

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Burnt out… police are investigating the cause of the fire that destroyed the well known Black Pearl bus that called Byron Bay home. Photo Facebook
Burnt out… police are investigating the cause of the fire that destroyed the well known Black Pearl bus that called Byron Bay home. Photo Facebook

Chris Dobney

It may not have been a sailing ship but the big black bus dubbed the Black Pearl, which was often seen in the streets of Byron Bay, had a similar reputation.

The mysterious bus had been regularly parking around Belongil, to the consternation of local residents and there were unsubstantiated reports on social media that the owner had been seen selling a stolen surfboard.

That all came to an end just before midnight on Monday (February 8), when NSW Fire & Rescue attended to reports of a ‘bonfire’at Childe Street, Byron Bay.

A spokesperson told Echonetdaily that crews arrived and found the bus alight with the owner outside unharmed. The fire was extinguished by around 1.40am.

The Black Pearl before the fire.
The Black Pearl before the fire.

The matter was handed to police to establish the cause of the fire.

The owner, Robina Todd, told local media she had ‘lost everything’ in the fire.

‘I’ve had three heart attacks and I bought this motorhome so I could relax and recover,’ Ms Todd told APN.

‘But now all my belongings are gone. I have nothing left. I have no idea what I’m going to do and I have nowhere to go,’ she added.

According to one local media website, ‘the information [about the surfboard] did not originate from police or the courts’ and ‘as a result, the owner of the bus was subjected to considerable abuse and numerous threats.’

But not all local residents have been sympathetic to Ms Todd’s plight.

‘Unfortunately this woman has been illegally camping in a very large obtrusive bus opposite our house and in nearby local residential areas/streets around Byron for several months,’ wrote a local woman on the Facebook page Byron – For Locals.

‘Regardless of the surfboard situation, she has been disrespecting local residents who pay rates and do the right thing. She has no consideration for those who her illegal camping/bus size impacts upon. She is well known to local council/parking rangers. While I wish her no harm and think the bus burning incident is awful (however it happened), she is not of complete innocence,’ the woman wrote.

Sergeant Jason Dowds of Byron Bay police told Echonetdaily the woman was not known to police nor had there been any reports of illicit activity.

‘There’s been a fire reported with the bus, there’s been substantial damage and we’ve lodge a report with our crime scene team to identify a cause and make a report.

‘Fire often wipes out any evidence – sometimes you just never know whether arson is involved,’ he said.

[Story amended July 15, 2016]

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