Sunday 20 October 2019

Man set fire to apartment with three children inside, court hears

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Brion Hoban

A man who set fire to an apartment with three children inside will be sentenced later this month.

Ian O'Connor (29) of Emmet Crescent, Inchicore, Dublin threw a pipe bomb at another family home less than a month later, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

He pleaded guilty to arson at Tyrone Place, Inchicore on September 18, 2017. He also pleaded guilty to arson at Ailesbury Road, Dublin on October 15, 2017.

Detective Inspector David Harrington told Philipp Rahn BL, prosecuting, that on the date in September, Margaret Green was asleep in her apartment along with her three children and woke to find the stairs on fire.

Ms Green was trapped upstairs by the fire and tried unsuccessfully to smash the windows to escape. She covered her two youngest children with wet towels in her bedroom and was choking on smoke when they were rescued by the fire brigade.

Her eldest son had fallen asleep while watching television downstairs and woke up to the sight of the front door on fire. He escaped via a balcony at the back of the apartment with the help of a neighbour who brought him a ladder.

O'Connor admitted to starting the fire by pouring petrol in the letterbox and on the front door. He said he owed money to certain persons who had instructed him to light the fire and had told him that there would be no one in the house.

Inspector Harrington agreed with Caroline Biggs SC, defending, that O'Connor believed that had he not lit the fire, then his family would have been pipe-bombed. O'Connor was given a bag of cocaine beforehand, but said he did not do it for the drugs.

In a victim impact statement which was read out in court, Ms Green said that her seven year old daughter's hearing aid had melted in the fire causing a permanent scar to her ear. The court heard that all four members of the family sustained injuries.

Ms Green said she thought that she and her family were all going to die. She said she remembers her youngest son telling her that he was going to Heaven and that he would come back and help them escape the fire.

Detective Garda Shane Cahill told Mr Rahn that on the date in October, William Godson woke to find flames outside the kitchen window of the home of his parents and two younger siblings. He grabbed bottles of water and used them to douse the fire.

O'Connor told gardaí that he got an offer of €2,000 to put a petrol bomb through a window and was told that there was no one in the house, but he had not been paid as it had not worked. He said he had brought two petrol bombs to the house but had only thrown one.

Det Gda Cahill agreed with Ms Biggs that her client had been in debt and felt he had no option of getting money anywhere else. He agreed that there was some speculation that the wrong house had been targeted.

O'Connor has previous convictions for drunk driving and for being drunk in charge of a vehicle. He is unmarried and has one child.

Ms Biggs told the court that her client's uncle and cousin had been assassinated over drug debts in particularly gruesome killings, adding, “he had seen what happens if you don’t pay.”

She said O’Connor had a history of dependence on cocaine, benzodiazepams and alcohol since the age of 12 and had been under the influence of “vast amounts” of drugs at the time of the offences.

She said that O'Connor has been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of four and had suffered from panic attacks, anxiety depression since his teens.

A psychiatrist’s report said O’Connor displayed the traits of schizoid personality disorder. She said her client was genuinely remorseful for his actions and had considered suicide.

The court heard O’Connor was working as a cleaner in prison and was willing to take whatever steps necessary to rehabilitate himself.

Judge Melanie Greally remanded O'Connor in custody and adjourned the matter for sentencing on March 22, next.

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