Courts

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Man denies arson that killed boy (12) in den

Aoife Nic Ardghail and Declan Brennan

Published 01/05/2014|02:30

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STEPHEN HUGHES STEPHEN CONNORS
 
 Undated handout photo Stephen Connors, whose mother Elizabeth made a desperate appeal Friday August 30 2002, to find a man who was seen running from her 12-year-old son's outside play den moments before it caught fire, killing the youngster. Ms Connors begged the public to help police trace the man who was filmed near Stephen's den a year ago on Sunday.  Stephen was with a friend when the fire tore through the den near to their homes in the south Dublin suburb of Tallaght, in the early hours of September 1 last year.
STEPHEN HUGHES STEPHEN CONNORS Undated handout photo Stephen Connors, whose mother Elizabeth made a desperate appeal Friday August 30 2002, to find a man who was seen running from her 12-year-old son's outside play den moments before it caught fire, killing the youngster. Ms Connors begged the public to help police trace the man who was filmed near Stephen's den a year ago on Sunday. Stephen was with a friend when the fire tore through the den near to their homes in the south Dublin suburb of Tallaght, in the early hours of September 1 last year.

A MAN has been accused of setting fire to a makeshift den more than a decade ago, and causing the death of a 12-year-old boy trapped inside.

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

Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, revealed that a number of youths had been making the den between two buildings at Rossfield Avenue from the end of August 2001.

She said this den had become "sizeable" and that on Friday, August 31, Stephen Hughes and the then 14-year-old Daryl Hall decided to stay overnight.

Ms Gearty told the jury that a number of young people came in and out of the den on the night and at some points, candles were used.

She said Mr Hall would give evidence that he had been sleeping towards the back of the den and managed to break through a wall to escape the fire. Stephen Hughes was not able to get out and he died in the blaze.

In her opening speech, Ms Gearty explained that if someone committed a criminal or dangerous act in which someone else died, then the crime was manslaughter. She added that the criminal act in this case was arson.

She told the jury to listen to the evidence as if the fire occurred last week or last year.

Terry O'Connor of Dublin Fire Brigade told Ms Gearty that he discovered a child's body in the burning remains of "some type of shed" at Rossfield Avenue. He said he arrived on the scene of the fire between a garage and a shop about 5.20am.

He said the garage and a nearby parked van were in flames.

The witness told Ms Gearty that he discovered the child's body after he entered the burning hut with breathing apparatus when the fire had been extinguished.

Detective Garda Colin Rochford showed the jury black and white CCTV footage which partially captured the scene of the fire.

He pointed out a figure seen entering the frame and then exiting.

Ms Gearty noted that several people could be seen coming in and out of the frame at various points, but that it was impossible to say whether they were the same people each time.

Rossfield Avenue resident Ian Reilly gave evidence that he set up the CCTV system at his home because several of his vehicles had been damaged in the past.

The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of six men and six women.

Irish Independent

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