Sunday 15 December 2019

Gardai probe threats before fatal arson attack on house

Harrowing scenes at fatal fire in Bray
Harrowing scenes at fatal fire in Bray
Harrowing scenes at fatal fire in Bray

Conor Feehan and Tom Brady

The son of a disabled man who died in an arson attack had been warned he would be burnt out of his home.

David Costigan (55) was trapped in the house on Oldcourt Avenue in Bray as fire engulfed the terraced building at 4.30am yesterday. He was wheelchair bound.

His son, Mark, who is in his 20s, was also in the house at the time, and attempted to save his father. However, he was fighting through smoke and flames and could not reach him.

Mark said he had received threats in recent days falsely accusing him of a recent incident in the Co Wicklow town and warned that he'd be burnt out of his house.


Gardai are now trying to establish if those behind the earlier threat were responsible for yesterday's horrifying attack.

Officers are to interview Mr Costigan's five adult children as they try to find out why the house had been targeted.

Gardai believe the fire was started maliciously, but are awaiting the outcome of a detailed examination of the house by forensic experts from the technical bureau at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park.

They are checking whether petrol or accelerant was put through the letterbox or thrown against the front door.

They are also investigating early reports that the front door panels had been kicked in before a flammable liquid was poured into the hallway and set alight.

Mark's account of the recent threats he received is being investigated as a possible motive for the blaze.

Officers said their inquiries could turn into a murder investigation.

The fire spread quickly through the house as neighbours awoke and ran to the family's aid while the emergency services were also alerted.

Mark told of how he desperately tried to save his father, but could not reach him and managed to escape through the back of the terraced house.

David Costigan was taken from the house by members of Wicklow fire service, as three units were tackling the blaze.

CPR was administered on the spot, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The body was removed later yesterday to St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown for a post-mortem examination.

As he was being comforted by his siblings in the front garden of their home, Mark Costigan said: "I shouted at him to answer me and show he was okay.

"I heard him bang his foot on the floor upstairs, so I knew he was alive at that stage.

"I had to hang out the bathroom window to get air, the smoke just filled the house."

Neighbours said they heard two loud bangs and then saw a wall of flames at the front door of the house.

"It was incredible. It was a fireball in seconds, there is no way an accidental fire could take off that quickly. This was petrol," one man said.

"I ran to the door to try and get in, but I was beaten back by the heat and smoke," he added.

Another house in the area was subjected to a pipe bomb attack last week, but gardai said there was no evidence indicating there was a link between the two incidents.

Gardai appealed for witnesses or anyone who might have seen suspicious behaviour around Oldcourt Avenue before 4.30am yesterday to contact them at 01 6665300 or on the confidential line, 1800 666111.

Irish Independent

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