Monday 23 April 2018

'Mari's killer knew she was in house when he started blaze'

Richard Connolly, father of Mari Keane, at Roscommon Circuit Court, yesterday, for the sentencing of John Lynch.
Richard Connolly, father of Mari Keane, at Roscommon Circuit Court, yesterday, for the sentencing of John Lynch.
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

THE parents of a five-year-old girl who died in an arson attack have rejected her killer's claim that he didn't know she was in the house when he set the fire.

Mari Keane-Connolly died after John Lynch (33) set fire to her father's home in Roscommon in October last year.

Yesterday, Lynch was jailed for 13 years for manslaughter.

But Mari's parents, Teresa Keane and Richard Connolly, dismissed Lynch's claims he didn't know the little girl was in the house in Boyle.

Teresa Keane wept as she revealed her daughters' school uniforms had been on the kitchen table on the night Mari died and said Lynch must have known that the girls were there as he started the fire in that room.

On the night of the fire, Teresa was in hospital where she had just given birth to twins, while her former partner Richard Connolly was minding their three daughters, Lauren (8), Naomi (7) and Mari (5). "The whole town knew I was having twins and the girls would be with Richard. That animal didn't care," Teresa said.

"He said he didn't know the children were there but their uniforms were laid out on the kitchen table and their toys were all over the house.

"John Lynch doesn't realise what he's done. He's killed us with what he has done to her," she said. "He might have got 13 years but he's the one who has left us with the life sentence.

"She died on her own and I can never forgive him," she added.

Mari's dad Richard welcomed the sentence, but stressed it could never change what happened.

"At the end of the day, come 10 years, 11 years that man will walk the streets," he said. "The child was only five, she will never walk again, she's never going to breathe air in the world again and he has the right to breathe it. So he can go off and do it to another family in my eyes. I don't see any remorse in him," he added.

Lynch (33), originally from Sligo but with an address at Church View in Boyle, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arson and causing serious harm to Mr Connolly.

Handing down the sentence, Judge Tony Hunt said: "The depth of terror in her final moments defy imagination."

The judge also sentenced him to eight years each for causing serious harm to Richard Connolly and a third charge of arson.

The charges are to run concurrently.

Judge Hunt said the tragedy had stemmed from a "trivial" incident involving John Lynch's girlfriend Anita O'Hara and Mari's uncle John Boy Connolly.

Describing Lynch as having an "innately angry and violent disposition", Judge Hunt said the circumstances of Mari's death had been terrifying.

"She was conscious and aware in the last moments before she was overcome," he said.

He also dismissed Lynch's claims that he was unaware anyone was in the house, pointing to the obvious signs of occupation. "If he didn't know, he certainly didn't care," he added.

He said that the death would forever mar the birth of Mari's younger sisters Ava and Layla, and Teresa Keane would never be able to look at her daughters without being reminded of their lost sister.

Judge Hunt described the killing as being at the high end of the manslaughter spectrum. However, he said he must take in mitigating factors including Lynch's early guilty plea.

Irish Independent

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