Poor mobile phone coverage has long been the cost of living on the harbour view side of the Vaucluse peninsula.
Residents on Derby Street have to walk onto their decks or huddle down the sides of their houses to get a signal. One family has to sit in a particular spot on the stairs. The specialist doctors who call the street home fear they will not be able to be contacted during their on-call hours.
So the May arrival of a new 5G tower on the corner of Derby Street and Cambridge Avenue might have been considered cause for celebration. But it appears not everybody was happy.
About 2.32am on Monday, a fire broke out at the base of the tower, seconds after CCTV footage on a neighbouring property captured vision of a beanie-clad figure walking to and from the vicinity of the pole.
Later in the morning, the wires leading up to the box had been incinerated, leaving only charred debris, the remains of a dead tree branch, the stench of kerosene and a community aghast. The well-heeled suburb became a hood of intrigue.
Elements of the ’hood had been agitating against the decision by Optus to put a tower at the end of their street since it was announced earlier this year. But nobody could countenance the prospect that a vandal was living among them.
“To me, that doesn’t look like the work of a local,” resident Angela Galgut said.
“I know there was a bit of antsy-pantsy about the tower, but I don’t think anyone took it too seriously. I wouldn’t know anyone who would do that because we all value our mobile phone coverage.”
Xianqin Qu, whose home is situated beneath the tower, was an early suspect among the resident gumshoes (though she is not legitimately suspected by authorities), as she circulated a petition against the tower in March.