Saturday 18 November 2017

Man found guilty of setting children's den on fire causing death of schoolboy (12)

Stephen Hughes
Stephen Hughes

Declan Brennan

A man has been found guilty of setting a children's makeshift den on fire causing the death of a boy over 13 years ago.

Stephen Hughes was 12 years old in 2001 when he died in the fire in the den where he had been sleeping overnight.

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

After a 13 day trial the jury of six men and six women deliberated for just over five  hours before returning the majority verdict.

Judge Patricia Ryan thanked the jury for their service. The main evidence against Mr Griffin came from three witnesses who placed Griffin at the scene.

The jury heard that in 2011 Griffin's former partner Tracey Deegan (38) went to gardai and told them that Griffin was at home with her on the night and told her he was going out to burn it down.

Ms Deegan said that Griffin wanted to burn the hut because “he didn't want joyriders in the area, he didn't want guards in the area”.

She said he went out and came back and told her he had felt a foot in the hut but that he still intended to set it on fire. He took some paper and went out again, she told the court.

Shortly after his return the couple heard shouting and they both went out and saw the fire. She said: "Dermot looked at me in a shocked manner. He said there were kids in that".

Ms Deegan had originally told gardai in 2001 that Griffin had stayed on the sofa with her all that night after they had smoked heroin and watched a movie.

She told this trial that she was covering up for Griffin and had been coached.

A neighbour Linda Prentice, who was a heroin addict at the time, said she saw Mr Griffin throw a lit white object into the hut and that the hut then went on fire. 

The trial also heard that James Farrelly told gardai that Mr Griffin had come up to him on the night and said "if you open your mouth he'll kill me". Mr Farrelly admitted he had smoked heroin on the night. 

Another witness, Jason Lambe, said that Mr Griffin had told him not to mention his name to the gardai.

Irish Independent

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