It’s not just children that take bouncy castles very seriously. James Balcombe, owner of Awesome Party Hire, let his competitive spirits get the best of him by taking his efforts too far in bringing other bouncy castle businesses down. Balcombe aimed to be number one in Melbourne’s jumping castle game and he hired arsonists to set fire to other businesses to maintain the top Google rank.
His plans initially worked and his business was profitable, enabling him to purchase a property from the profits. The only downfall for Balcombe was that the police would eventually catch on about his illegal activity and wonder how his own factory is still standing.
In an effort to stay one step ahead of the officials, Balcombeb reached out to the arsonist Craig Anderson and guided him through his Kangaroo Flat factory. He told Anderson to light up some of his jumping castles after he filled some empty jerry cans with petrol.
As per the instructions, Anderson poured petrol across the floor of Balcombe’s shed and set fire to it. Balcombe and his family stayed in a house near the location. The shed was insured for hundreds of thousands of dollars, which Balcombe planned to claim.
Things didn’t go according to plan and Anderson was arrested for the crime. He turned Balcombe into police and officers learned that Balcombe had hired Anderson and two other men to “commit 11 arson attacks over two months between 2016 and 2017.”
“Burn them to the ground,” he directed them, offering $2,000 per fire.
Most of the fires failed but A&A Jumping Castles was completely destroyed by Anderson. He tossed a Molotov cocktail through a shattered window, leading to a massive fire outbreak in the factory. As a result, 110 bouncy castles were destroyed. The fire caused $1.4 million in damage and the owners lost everything, forcing them to shut down business operations and work part-time jobs in childcare.
Balcombe was charged with “11 conspiracy to commit arson offences and was released on bail in 2017.”
He didn’t attend court for final directions hearing and his lawyer presented a fake medical certificate. A warrant was later issued for his arrest and he was found living in Perth, running a fake stamp operation under the name Paul Johnson. He eventually did plead guilty.
Judge Stewart Bayles said: “It impacted the lives and livelihoods of others, caused significant loss, suffering and emotional trauma. You could have changed your mind when you saw the damage caused to the property. You could have pulled back, stopped, but you did not.”
This king is behind bars after playing unfairly in the game. It’s going to take a lot for him to bounce back to his business.