Accused said he was going to burn down hut, ex-girlfriend tells trial
A MAN accused of the manslaughter of a boy who died in a fire at a makeshift den had told his partner he was going to burn the hut down, a court heard.
Stephen Hughes was 12 when he died in the fire in the den where he had been sleeping with his friend 13 years ago.
Dermot Griffin (54) of Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to manslaughter at Rossfield Avenue, Tallaght, on September 1, 2001.
Tracey Deegan (38) yesterday told the court that she was the partner of the accused in 2001 and up until five years ago.
She said she had a chronic heroin addiction at the time and that on the night in question she and Mr Griffin were at her home on Rossfield Avenue watching a movie and taking drugs.
She said that at around 4.20am Mr Griffin left the sofa and went outside before returning about four minutes later.
"He said he was going to burn the hut down," the witness said. "When he came back he told me that he checked the hut and he felt a foot."
She said the accused told her he was going back to burn it.
Asked by counsel if he said why he was going to do this, Ms Deegan replied: "He didn't want joyriders in the area, he didn't want guards in the area."
She said he went out a second time, and brought some paper with him. She said that a few minutes after returning to the house the second time, she heard screams for help coming from outside.
"We went out the back garden. We seen the glow of the fire. Both of us ran out to the front door and started banging on doors and windows to get people out," Ms Deegan testified.
Detective Sergeant Brian Sourk told the court that he arrived at the scene in a patrol car at 5.26am, two minutes after receiving details of a fire at the estate. The detective said he ran towards the fire but realised there was no chance of getting in to it.
He said Ms Deegan told him there was possibly someone in the hut and that he spoke to Daryl Hall, then aged 14, who had escaped from the hut.
Det Sgt Sourk said the teenager was in shock and had smoke around his face and a cut on his hand.
The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of six men and six women.