Court proceedings unfold as Werribee South mechanic faces charges for a shocking incident involving his neighbour
In a recent court proceeding in Melbourne, a mechanic stands accused of setting his neighbour on fire, resulting in severe burns covering 70% of her body. The incident allegedly occurred following a dispute over noise in their neighbourhood in Werribee South in December 2022.
Michael Gauci, a 44-year-old resident of Werribee South, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for a bail application, which was met with opposition from the police who deemed him an “unacceptable risk.” Several of his family and friends, including his parents Maurice and Antonia Gauci, were present in court to support him and offered their family home as collateral for his bail.
Detective Senior Constable Matthew Wick outlined the allegations of “extreme violence.” Gauci, who owns and operates an auto shop and wreckers in Werribee South, is accused of dousing his neighbour with an accelerant before setting her on fire after an argument related to “loud music.”
The victim, a 32-year-old woman from New Zealand, was in her backyard on December 27 with a few friends, enjoying drinks, music, and singing. Gauci, at the time, was away at a car meet-up when he received a text message from his wife at 11:42 p.m., reporting disturbances caused by the neighbours.
Gauci allegedly responded by suggesting that his wife talk to the neighbours and inform them about their small children trying to sleep. According to Detective Wick, the group complied by lowering their music but had another argument with Gauci’s wife about 10 minutes later when she asked them to be quiet again. Subsequently, the group left the property, went to the nearby beach, and returned to the backyard around 1:30 a.m.
"All we heard was a loud pop and my sister was burnt alive"
CCTV footage from Gauci’s residence reportedly showed him picking up a blowtorch at 1:48 a.m., after which his wife turned off the system. Two minutes later, Gauci is alleged to have challenged the woman to a fight outside the house.
A physical altercation ensued between the women in the driveway before Gauci purportedly threw a litre of PrepWash, a petroleum distillate, over the other woman. Gauci then ignited a blowtorch, causing the woman’s upper body to catch fire. She screamed and fell to the ground while her brother, friends and housemates attempted to suppress the flames.
The court was informed that the victim sustained burns covering 70% of her body and was given a 30% chance of survival. Gauci reportedly drove his family to the local police station, where he turned himself in and provided a “no comment” interview. He has been charged with attempted murder, along with alternative charges of reckless conduct endangering life and intentionally causing serious injury.
The victim spent over seven months in the hospital before being released to her family in New South Wales, and she will require multiple surgeries over the next 12 to 24 months.
Detective Wick argued against granting bail, expressing concerns that Gauci had planned and carried out an act of extreme violence in response to a minor dispute about noise, raising fears of potential further extreme reactions. Despite being a respected member of the local community, the police were worried that Gauci might attempt to interfere with witnesses.
Gauci’s lawyer, Dr Gideon Boas, countered that his client sought to move forward with his life after spending 11 months in custody, defend against the allegations, and work on rebuilding his business, which was facing significant challenges. He emphasized that various aspects of the prosecution’s case would be disputed, including the nature of the interaction and the circumstances surrounding the victim catching fire.
Magistrate Jarrod Williams adjourned the decision to allow time for consideration, and Gauci is scheduled to return to court next week for a ruling on his bail application.