Australian Sets Fire to Own Hostel – Gets Arrested

At around 8 pm on February 22nd, 2019, Damon Simms was detained by police at Gabbi Guest House in Ta Phul Village, Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap Province.

Damon Walter Nelson Simms, to give him his full name is a 39-year-old Australian-Irish dual citizen who was running the hostel with his mother and wife. His father was a renowned Hong Kong journalist who died in 2017. His son did not attend the funeral.

He had allegedly gotten into an altercation with his long-suffering wife over his constant drug use. On the evening of the February 22nd he was said to have set fire to various possessions as well as the pool table after his wife had informed him she was leaving him. The fire was quickly put out but still managed to cause a lot of damage to the property they were leasing.

According to local residents who witnessed the arrest, Mr. Simms was acting deranged and seemed to be high at the time. One Korean resident who asked that her name be withheld described him being known as the “crazy Australian man.”

Mr. Simms previously lived in La Union with his wife. He eventually allegedly deported from the Philippines under dubious circumstances expected to be related to his use of drugs.

It is rumored that his mother then paid for him to enter rehab before funding his restaurant and hostel in Siem Reap, as well as arranging for his wife and child to join them from the Philippines.

Alas, Cambodia turned out not the best place for a drug addict to set up shop, and it appears he was quickly using again. A cursory look at their Trip Advisor Page (link) shows that the eventual meltdown seemed to be a time bomb waiting to go off.

To quote one of their later reviews:

“The first thing you have to do is disregard all past reviews as this establishment has changed ownership. The previous owner was a Thai lady and now the guest house is owned by Australian and Kiwi Interests.On my arrival at this establishment I found my room not ready despite arriving at 4.15pm and advising I would be checking in between 4 and 5pm. I was told a wait of 30 to 45 minutes so leaving my luggage I returned later and by way of compensation I was given a free dinner with a couple of drinks. The owner was away in hospital due to a fall and did not appear till a few days later. On entering my room I noticed there was no tea/ coffee facility as shown in reviews and this was rectified straight away. The room had a new comfortable bed, new towels and flat screen T.V. with multi sky channels. The air/con worked well after getting it serviced and a small fridge worked well. I had to request a table and chair and everything was provided after requests. Bathroom was disappointing, concrete walls and floor, small wash bowl with only cold water but shower was good. Renovations were taking place and my booking was a surprise as Hotel Booking .Com had still accepted my booking. The disruption was minimal and despite some loud noise it ceased by 5pm. Breakfast was set up outside amongst the noise, flies and sun and so I requested a table be set up inside the lobby. Basic fare of 2 eggs, 2 slices of toast with butter and small bowl of diced tomato and onion. When the owner came out of hospital and enquired as to my breakfast he had added 2 slices of bacon. During my booked 29 night stay the staff had a 3 day holiday so had to service my own room and collect fresh towels from downstairs. The owner compensated me by way of money on my bar tab and I had breakfast in nearby restaurant for 3 days. I noticed the flights of stairs to my room were not uniform, the 1st flight being narrower than the others and it was that flight that the owner had fallen down breaking several ribs. One morning he was drinking beer at 9am and other times from around 11am continuing most of the day. On day 18 of my stay I heard a lot of banging from downstairs from 6.30 to 7.40pm and assumed the renovators were working late. I went down to the bar and half way through my 1st beer the owner came down in an agitated state and trying to be restrained by his girlfriend. He started smashing up some pedestal fans in the lobby that had been purchased for rooms that day and he informed me the bar was closed and the hotel would be closing. With that I was told I could get my money back from his mother as they did not accept credit cards and wanted cash up front on my arrival. I went out for a few drinks down the road and made another booking at a hotel for the next day and remaining 11 nights. On returning to the guest house the lights were off, table mats and coasters had been flung into the street, upturned furniture and a couple of smashed bottles of spirits. As a result of the owners psychotic meltdown I was glad to get into my room with out further incident and after locking door wedged the chair under handle. I packed up early next morning and did not find anyone to hand key in. On returning later owner, mother and staff were there and I made arrangements to meet mother for my cash refund. She was very nice and another victim in the whole sorry episode. She told me her son had also destroyed a large flat screen T.V. on the bar, ribbon lights around the bar and his cell phone. In conclusion it is hard to see the 7 room guest house surviving and when the renovations are completed I guess it will be on sold or undergo a name change.”

Following the fire, he was immediately arrested for arson and possession of narcotics and could have faced up to 5 years in prison. Eventually and assuming his family paid some kind of “fine,” he was deported back to New Zealand.

Whilst no story like this even has what you could call a happy ending, Mr. Simms is now apparently on the dole in New Zealand and banned from both the Philippines and Cambodia. His wife and child are now settled back in the La Union in the Philippines.

Gabi’s Hotel and Bistro is now an Indian restaurant, although many locals still remember the time a Crazy Australian tried to burn the place down.

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