Sunday 18 March 2018

Gang of up to 40 teens spotted at Vernon Mount around time fire broke out

Pictured: The fire at Mount Vernon (Photo: Twitter/@higginskev)
Pictured: The fire at Mount Vernon (Photo: Twitter/@higginskev)

Catherine Devine and Ralph Riegel

A gang of between 20 to 40 teenagers were at the grounds of Vernon Mount at the time the fire broke out, according to gardai.

As part of their ongoing investigation into the fire, gardai have identified a number of individuals, ranging in age from 15 to 17, and have called to several addresses in Cork to speak to teenagers over the last 48 hours.

Massive damage was caused to Vernon Mount House in Cork after a blaze, suspected to be caused by vandals, erupted shortly before 10pm on Sunday night.

At its height, seven units of Cork fire brigade were battling the fire which spread quickly throughout the interior of the property which has been empty for some time.

The house was the subject of an attack by vandals earlier this month and Cork County Council confirmed they had raised the incident with the property owner’s agent.

Repairs following that vandal attack were only completed on July 10.

Since 2012, more than €170,000 was spent in a bid to secure and protect Vernon Mount from both vandals and the ravages of the Irish weather.

The Department of Arts & Heritage provided €44,850 in support funds. Cork County Council insisted it had been assisting the owner to make urgent repairs to the property and described the fire as “most unfortunate.”

Photo: Tara O'Sullivan
Photo: Tara O'Sullivan

“The site is now being treated as a crime scene – presumably arson,” the council said.

Vernon Mount was built in 1784 and was a protected structure.

The Georgian mansion was built for Cork merchant, Atwell Hayes, who named it after George Washington’s famous Virginia home as a mark of admiration for the American Revolution.

However, far from emulating the scrupulously correct General Washington, the merchant’s son, Sir Henry Browne-Hayes, later abducted a young heiress, Mary Pike, to secure her £20,000 dowry.

Photo: Tara O'Sullivan
Photo: Tara O'Sullivan

Browne-Hayes was eventually arrested and the young woman freed though she was so traumatised she suffered from mental illness for the rest of her life.

The merchant was convicted, sentenced to death but then commuted to transportation to Australia.

Legend has it that the Cork mansion has since been haunted by the spirit of the deranged young woman and it ranks alongside Loftus Hall in Wexford as one of the most haunted structures in the country.

The Irish Georgian Society has described Vernon Mount as “a neoclassical gem” and “an extraordinary suburban villa”.

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