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Wednesday 24 January 2018

Criminal suspected of setting fatal blaze

Gardai probe revenge theory as family plan Mari funeral


GARDAI suspect a convicted criminal of setting the fire that killed five-year-old Mari Connolly-Keane in retribution for a love affair.

The child died in the early hours of Monday morning after the house she was staying in with her father and her two sisters went on fire. The child's father managed to save her two sisters by urging them to jump from a ledge but Mari didn't jump.

Garda are investigating the theory that the criminal suspected someone of having an affair with a woman close to him and set the house on fire in the early hours of Monday morning in revenge. But no one in the house had anything to do with the claims of an affair.

The man suspected of being behind the blaze is believed to have made threats beforehand after an encounter in a nightclub on Sunday night, according to one report.

The suspect disappeared from his usual haunts in the days after the fire. Gardai arrested him in a house in the Sligo area on Wednesday. He was later released without charge. A 30-year-old woman was questioned by detectives yesterday.

Mari's father, Richard Connolly, was staying at the house in Boyle, Co Roscommon. From his hospital bed last week, he told of his efforts to save his children from the fire that swept through the house as they slept in the early hours of Monday morning.

Richard was looking after his three daughters, Lauren, 8, Naomi, 6, and Mari, 5, while their mother, Teresa, was in hospital giving birth to twins. The couple were no longer in a relationship. He told how he awoke at 2.30am to find flames ripping through the house. "I heard a bang and got up," he told a newspaper last week. "Flames were coming up the top of the stairs, and I saw the fire was coming from the front door."

He ran into the bedroom to fetch Lauren, and then got Naomi and Mari out of bed. "I took all three to the back window and out on to the roof, which is over the bathroom. Richard fell off the ledge and was seriously injured on the concrete below. He urged his children to jump off and, while the older two jumped, Mari did not. Perhaps disoriented, she went back into the house through the open window, where the fire officers later found her body. "I had them all out on that roof. I tried to save them all, but I'll never know why she didn't jump."

As Richard was rushed to Beaumont hospital in Dublin, Mari's mother, Teresa Keane, visited the scene of the blaze on Monday to lay flowers and a photograph at the charred house in memory of her daughter.

Mari will be buried on Tuesday, her funeral delayed to allow her father to attend. He suffered serious injuries in the fall. She will be brought to her mother's home in Boyle tomorrow evening and will be buried at 11am on Tuesday at St Joseph's Church.

Sunday Independent

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