Optician killed as he set fire to his own property
A father of three died in an explosion while carrying out an arson attack on his own holiday home, an inquest has heard.
Jeff McLaughlin (42), was wearing a balaclava and had left a getaway car with false number plates near the property in Co Donegal on Halloween night 2014.
A jury in Carndonagh yesterday returned a verdict of 'accidental death by misadventure' on the businessman who died in the blast at Malin Head.
The optician, who had two practices in his native Carndonagh and in Buncrana, had been trying unsuccessfully to sell the property for a number of years.
Neighbour Michael Glackin told coroner Dr John Madden that the blast from the incident was so loud he thought it had been hit by a plane.
Supt Kevin English said it became clear it was a crime scene. He said Mr McLaughlin had put plastic bags over his shoes and had fitted a fake Cork registration on his Nissan car parked 350 metres from the house.
"From my experience I had concerns about what had occurred and what part the deceased had to play in his own demise," said Supt English.
Forensic expert Dr Barbara Buchanan said she found petrol vapour on clothes worn by Mr McLaughlin while Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Anne Bolster said the optician had died instantly in the explosion from "catastrophic injuries".
The dead man's widow Martina said he left the family home in Mansefield Grove in Derry on the evening of the explosion after a row.
Earlier he had dressed as a pirate and had gone 'trick or treating' with his children.
"I was angry at the argument," said Mrs McLaughlin, "but I did not expect him [to] not come home."
She said she was haunted by the death of her husband of 11 years and wanted to ask him why he had gone to their holiday home that night.
"I want to tell him how much I love him," she said.
She said the PSNI had told her of a fire at the holiday home on the night of blast but hadn't realised her husband was dead.
The next day a member of staff in Carndonagh told her a body had been found.
"I told her not to be so ridiculous, the police would have told me. As soon as she mentioned the word 'body' I could not even see the door (of the shop)," said Mrs McLaughlin.
She said her husband had lived for their three children.