Monday 20 August 2018

Unusual scenes in court as father-of-four thanks arsonist for saving family as home was about to go up in flames

  • Arsonist was 'by no means innocent' but stopped the attack from escalating
  • A family dispute broke out earlier in the day which resulted in the arson attack
The attack happened outside Mr Murrin's home at St Anne's Terrace, Co Sligo. Inset: Tony Murrin
The attack happened outside Mr Murrin's home at St Anne's Terrace, Co Sligo. Inset: Tony Murrin
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A man whose home was damaged in an arson attack claims that without the intervention of one of the arsonists, his whole family would have died in the attack.

Tony Murrin was sleeping in his home in Co Sligo with his four young sons when the attack occurred in the early hours of September 18, 2015.

Mr Murrin told Independent.ie that he woke up after hearing his windows smashing downstairs and saw that his car was on fire.

Last month, Patrick Joseph Hegarty (38) of Calry Court Apartments, Co Sligo, was given a suspended sentence for his part in the arson attack, according to the Sligo Champion.

Speaking to Independent.ie Mr Murrin said that while Hegarty was "in no way innocent", his subsequent actions on the day prevented a dangerous escalation.

“Hegarty got involved in something that he shouldn’t have. He helped set fire to my car outside my house and then things escalated,” Mr Murrin told Independent.ie.

Last month, Hegarty pleaded guilty at Sligo Circuit Court to setting fire to Mr Murrin's car outside his home at 4 St Anne's Terrace, Co Sligo.

A co-accused, John Dennedy of Racecourse View, Cranmore was previously jailed for 18 months in relation to his part of the attack. Dennedy is related to Mr Murrin.

Dennedy pleaded guilty to damaging by fire the sitting room window of the house.

It's believed a family dispute broke out earlier in the day between Mr Murrin and Dennedy, which resulted in the arson attack.

At the hearing, there were unusual scenes in court as the victim thanked Hegarty for saving his family.

“After setting the car on fire, Dennedy broke a front window in the house and attempted to set my house on fire. The incident was captured on CCTV and the footage was shown to the court,” Mr Murrin told Independent.ie.

“Me and my four boys were in the house at the time and it could have ended tragically. Hegarty stopped Dennedy from putting petrol through our letter box. He stopped the arson attack from escalating and prevented my family from dying in the attack.

"My boys were aged between 13 and 17 at the time. They could have been badly injured or worse in the attack.

“While Hegarty did me a favour, he is by no means a hero. He knew he came to my house to cause trouble, but he stopped things from escalating.”

Mr Murrin said all his family wanted was to be able to relax in their home and get a good night's sleep.

He and his family were emotionally and mentally scarred as a result of the traumatic incident.

At Sligo Circuit Court, Judge Johnson imposed a three year jail term on Hegarty, suspended for five years. Hegarty must also keep the peace for five years and undergo probation service supervision for two years. He must also stay alcohol free and engage with the mental health services.

The court heard that Hegarty had taken out two loans to pay for the damage he caused.

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