Arson suspect arrested in fire at Ukrainian Church pastor’s Victoria home

Arson suspect arrested in fire at Ukrainian Church pastor's Victoria home

A man has been arrested in connection with an April 2022 arson at the home of a Victoria pastor, an attack that forced family members to make a dramatic escape from the burning house.

Victoria police say Nanaimo resident Walter “Theo” Machinski has been arrested and charged in the arson, which led to one child being seriously injured while attempting her escape.

In a surprising twist, police say Machinski specifically targeted Vyshnevskyy and knew him from his own work serving as pastor at various Ukrainian Catholic churches on Vancouver Island.

YouTube video shows Machinski outside the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Nanaimo. It’s where Machinski ended up, after serving as pastor at Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Victoria from 2011-2016.

Pastor Walter 'Theo' Machinski speaks in front of a Ukrainian Catholic Church in this YouTube video

Pastor Walter ‘Theo’ Machinski speaks in front of the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Nanaimo in a still taken from YouTube.

The blaze initially prompted speculation that the attack was targeted toward Vyshnevskyy because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Police put that rumour to rest Thursday, saying the arson “was not motivated by hatred towards an identifiable group” in a news release.

The fire broke out at the home in the 1100-block of Caledonia Avenue early in the morning on April 20, 2022. Vyshnevskyy later revealed that his wife heard the distinct sound of gasoline being poured through their mail slot moments before the fire erupted.

READ MORE: Victoria pastor says wife saw gasoline being poured through mail slot prior to arson

By the time he reached the front door, the fire was already spreading too quickly, forcing the family to make a desperate escape. First responders found the front doorway area and upper level of the house engulfed in flames.

Victoria Fire responded to a structure fire in the 1100-block of Caledonia Avenue on April 20, 2022. (Mark Innes/CHEK News)

The five occupants managed to escape the burning home, with three jumping from a second-story window, one being rescued by firefighters using a ladder, and one leaving through a lower-level door.

In a statement sent to CHEK News following the arrest, Vyshnevskyy thanked police and Crown for their hard work throughout the investigation.

He also thanked community members in Greater Victoria who he says “have been so caring and concerned and helped us survive the effects of the attack and helped us get back on our feet again when we had nothing and were seriously hurt.”

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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