Monday 20 October 2014

'Boy was screaming his pal was still inside deadly den fire', witness tells manslaughter trial

Published 01/05/2014 | 13:40

Stephen Hughes
Stephen Hughes

A witness in a manslaughter trial has revealed he saw a boy who escaped a fire at a makeshift den screaming that his young friend was still inside.

Philip Morris described seeing flames and hearing screams when he looked out his bedroom window across the road from the fire, which happened over a decade ago.

The witness said he ran across the road and found then 14-year-old Daryl Hall at a pillar beside the fire, screaming that his friend Stephen Hughes was still inside.

Dermot Griffin (54) of Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the manslaughter of 12-year-old Stephen Hughes at Rossfield Avenue, Tallaght on September 1, 2001.

In her opening address, Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, explained that if someone commits a criminal or dangerous act in which someone else dies, then the crime is manslaughter. She added that the criminal act in this case is arson.

Mr Morris told Ms Gearty that he was the first Rossfield Avenue resident at the scene, but was soon joined by others.

He said some neighbours told him they had already called the fire brigade and he ran back towards his house to check his younger brother was at home. He explained his brother had also been “at the camp”.

He said he saw a group at the scene when he returned, including a neighbour known to him as Declan Griffin.

Mr Morris said he had never met Declan Griffin before but had seen him once or twice at his house in the neighbourhood.

The witness agreed with Bernard Condon SC, defending, that he was positive he was the first person at the fire.

A fire ambulance man told Ms Gearty that the fire took about ten to 15 minutes to extinguish.

James O’Brien said he approached the burnt den when it was safe to do so and saw the “little” body towards the back.

He said he later went to where Daryl Hall was and found him in shock and blackened about the face.

Earlier Judge Patricia Ryan told the six women and six men of the jury that they had to decide the case without regard to any media, including publications, television or internet.

She also told them not to let emotion or published photographs influence their view of the facts in this case.   

“This is a very tragic case, please decide this case in a rational and detached way,” Judge Ryan said.

The trial continues and is set to last up to three weeks.

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