Sunday 25 March 2018

Arsonist who killed disabled gran (73) jailed for eight years

Nicola Kavanagh leaves court after her conviction (Picture: Ciara Wilkinson)
Nicola Kavanagh leaves court after her conviction (Picture: Ciara Wilkinson)

Elaine Keogh

A woman who set fire to a house causing the death of a disabled grandmother has been jailed for 12 years, with the last four suspended.

Nicola Kavanagh (28), of Rathmullen Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, admitted the manslaughter of Eva Berrill (73). She also pleaded guilty to arson to the Berrill family home on the Chord Road, Drogheda.

Judge Michael O'Shea at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court praised the courageous actions of the man who dragged Mrs Berrill from her downstairs bedroom after the fire was started about 12.50am on the August 16, 2014.

The court heard Mrs Berrill, who was once a well known singer, had been paralysed and needed a wheelchair after a stroke in 2002.

She died in the burns unit of St James's Hospital in Dublin 96 days after the fire. She had burns to 12pc of her body and was not strong enough to tolerate surgery.

Detective inspector Pat Marry said CCTV had captured Kavanagh setting fire to the net curtains in the downstairs bedroom in which Mrs Berrill slept.

The court heard it was a warm summer's night and the window had been left open.

Judge O'Shea praised the actions of Colin Carter, who had "fearlessly and courageously put his life at risk" by going into the house and dragging Mrs Berrill onto the street.

Kavanagh's defence barrister Roderick O'Hanlon said setting the fire was "a random act" and there was no premeditation. He said she never set out to hurt anyone and she would live with regret for the rest of her life.

Kavanagh had a chronic alcohol and drug problem and had also been on Xanex and pain medication at the time, he said.

In a victim impact statement, read by his son Des, Oliver Berrill described how he was his wife's main carer.

"I spent my time looking after her. I did this with love, love for my wife, love for the mother of my children and was happy to continue doing this until the day God called her home.

"On the night Nicola Kavanagh lit a fire in our home, Eva was on her own in her bed. This was not the end that anyone would want for their loved one and certainly not how I imagined Eva and myself would be separated."

Irish Independent

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