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Tragic Mari's dad reveals arson threat

A FATHER who lost his five year-old daughter in a fire at his home has revealed he was warned in advance that an arson attack would take place – but didn't take the threat seriously.

Richard Connolly (27), Termon Road, Boyle, Co Roscommon, managed to save himself and two of his daughters, Lauren (8) and Naomi (7), when their home in Boyle was engulfed in flames in the early hours of October 3, 2011.

But little Mari Keane Connolly lost her life in the blaze and her charred body was discovered some time later.

At an inquest in Ballaghaderreen, conducted by Coroner Desmond O'Connor, it was explained that the victim's mother, Teresa Kane, was in Sligo General Hospital at the time of the fire giving birth to twins.

A 33-year-old man, John Lynch, Church View, Boyle, was previously sentenced at the Circuit Criminal Court in Roscommon to eight years in prison for arson with intent to endanger life, and eight years for causing serious harm to Mari's father, Richard.

In a statement read at the inquest by Inspector Declan Rock, Mr Connolly explained he was in London with one of his daughters, Lauren, on August 17, 2011 when he received a phone call from a man who told him Lynch had told him he was going to burn the Connolly home.

"I did not take the threat seriously," Mr Connolly stated.

Outlining his experience on the night of the fire, Mr Connolly said he awoke to a loud bang downstairs at 2.30 am and was confronted at the door of the bedroom by smoke and flames.

Witnesses said he managed to get his three daughters out a window onto a roof and managed himself to get onto the ground. Two of the daughters jumped to safety but he could not get Mari down as she was afraid.

In the attempt to escape, Mr Connolly suffered severe spinal injuries, was paralysed and could not move.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr. Khalid Jaber, who carried out a post mortem, gave evidence of 'a lethal level' of carbon monoxide at 59.3pc in the victim's body. Children were very susceptible to carbon monoxide even levels as low as 10 to 15 pc, the pathologist explained.

He added that death was due to smoke inhalation and internal injuries and charring of the body as a result of a fire.

An inquest jury returned an open verdict but recommended that local authorities should review fire prevention provisions in all local authority houses as a matter of urgency.

Irish Independent