Saturday 17 March 2018

Young woman who started fire in apartment complex which killed two men jailed for 10 years

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Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A young woman high on alcohol and prescription medication who started a fire in an apartment complex which resulted in the death of two men was jailed for 10 years.

Rachel Crawshaw (29) wept as Judge Sean O'Donnabhain described her actions as "hugely reckless" in starting a fire with a cigarette lighter in a flat within a popular Cork apartment complex.

Judge O'Donnabhain said that but for the courage and professionalism of Gardai Liam Phillips and Catriona O'Sullivan who evacuated the complex, more lives would have been lost.

Both gardai were so badly injured getting people out of the burning building they had to be hospitalised.

Crawshaw had pleaded guilty before Cork Circuit Criminal Court to the unlawful killing of John Palmer (37) and Greg Lonergan (36).

Crawshaw of No Fixed Abode also pleaded guilty to arson at Granary Court, St Joseph’s Road, Mallow, Co Cork between March 12 and 13 2014.

The arson charge was brought contrary to the Criminal Damage Act, 1991.

Judge O'Donnabhain imposed a 15 year prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final five years in light of Crawshaw's plea and remorse.

The court heard she was a chronic alcohol and drug addict who had "a chaotic upbringing."

Gardai found Crawshaw and Christopher Palmer, the twin brother of John Palmer, unconscious in the complex at 12.10am that morning and dragged them to safety.

Crawshaw was so distressed when she regained consciousness outside she tried to get back into the burning building and had to be restrained.

Gardai were unable due to heat and smoke to get Mr Palmer and Mr Lonergan out of a top floor flat.

But they successfully got all other residents from the complex.

Greg Lonergan's wife, Sonya, said her family will never get over what happened to "my best friend."

"Greg was such a good man. He was a hard-worker and a really nice person," she said.

"This is just too hard to bear. It is hurting really bad - really deep in my heart."

"I knew her (Crawshaw) myself because she lived in the same terrace as me."

"I just cannot understand why she could do it. I will never understand it."

Sonya admitted that her loss was made all the more painful by the manner of Greg's funeral arrangements.

"He was 100pc burned to death - that is what I was told. We couldn't even get to see him in the coffin. He was my best friend in life."

"No matter what happened here today it wasn't ever going to bring Greg back."

Gardaí and Mallow fire brigade were alerted to a blaze at the Granary Court complex in the north Cork town at 12.08am on March 13 two years ago.

When emergency services arrived at the new apartment complex, a blaze had already engulfed one unit.

Brigade officials had to wear breathing apparatus to gain entry to the smoke-filled complex.

They located two men lying unconscious inside a rented top floor apartment.

Gardai had earlier gotten all other occupants from the complex.

Both were dragged out of the burning apartment and were given emergency treatment outside.

Tragically, neither could be revived and both Mr Palmer and Mr Lonergan were pronounced dead at the scene by a Mallow GP.

Both had suffered substantial burns.

A twin brother of Mr Palmer, Chris Palmer, was also in the complex but was earlier saved by Gardai.

He was treated for acute smoke inhalation at the scene and was rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where he eventually recovered.

Mr Lonergan had lived at a number of addresses in both Cork city and north Cork.

The Palmer twins hailed from Tymon North in Tallaght, Dublin but had been resident in north Cork for some time.

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