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Christmas joy at last for mum of hut fire boy

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Mrs Elizabeth Hughes with a photo of hes son who died in the fire

Mrs Elizabeth Hughes with a photo of hes son who died in the fire

Mrs Elizabeth Hughes with a photo of hes son who died in the fire

The mother of 12-year-old Tallaght boy Stephen Hughes, who perished when the makeshift den he was sleeping in with a pal was torched in 2001, has said she celebrated Christmas for the first time in 13 years this year.

Liz Hughes had been hoping for all that time that she would some day see justice for her boy, and in June she sat in court as Dermot Griffin was found guilty of Stephen's manslaughter when he set fire to the den at Rossfield Avenue in Tallaght on September 1, 2001.

"My life had been on hold since Stephen's death. We went through the motions of Christmas every year but this was the first time I felt a sense of closure, a sense of justice and peace, and a reason to be thankful," Liz told the Herald.

Sleeping

Stephen was sleeping in the den with pal Daryl Hall when Griffin set it ablaze.

Hall, who was 14 at the time, described in court how he scrambled out of the burning hut and tried to rescue his friend Stephen.

"I thought he was behind me. When I got on the wall, standing on the wall, I jumped back down. I tried to lift up the door, I heard him coughing," he said.

But Daryl was unable to lift the hut open again and got back up on the wall and started screaming for help, but it was too late.

Griffin was given a 15-year sentence by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

"There will always be a gap in our lives without Stephen, but at least now I know the man that was responsible for his death is behind bars," Liz said.

Griffin (54), of Ballyfermot Road, had 39 previous convictions, including assault causing harm, burglary and robbery.

The main evidence in the case came from three witnesses who placed Griffin at the scene.

But it took a dramatic change in evidence in 2012 when witness Tracey Deegan came forward and told gardai she had lied in 2001 to cover for Griffin.

"The dogs in the street knew he did it, but it took Tracey Deegan to change her evidence before he could be convicted," Liz explained.

Determined

"I would see Griffin nearly every day. I could be standing beside him in the shops. I did confront him once but he just walked away, but that just made me stronger - more determined that I could not give up for Stephen," she said.

Liz said she now gives Griffin no thought at all.

"I thought long and hard about him for 13 years, wondering how we would ever see justice. Now that we have that I don't give him a second thought," she explained.

"I didn't realise it at the time but I carried a cross in my heart for all those years," she said.

"You think you are getting along from day-to-day and coping, but it's only when you get that justice, and get that closure, and you can let go, that you realise just how heavy the pain was," Liz added.

cfeehan@herald.ie


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