| 13.2°C Dublin

Suspect held in boy's horrific arson death

THE chief suspect in the killing of a 12-year-old boy who was burned to death in an arson attack 11 years ago is expected to be charged with manslaughter.

Stephen Hughes Connors (12) died in a blaze at a makeshift hut in Tallaght, south Dublin, at 5am on September 1, 2001.

The 52-year-old suspect, a drug dealer from Ballyfermot, who is serving a lengthy jail sentence, was previously arrested and taken from Mountjoy Prison in February before being questioned at Tallaght Garda Station for several days.

A file was then prepared and sent to the DPP. The suspect was rearrested in jail.

The hut that Stephen and his friend Daryl Hall were camping in -- at Rossfield Avenue in the Brookfield area -- was destroyed in the fire.

Initially, the incident was thought to be accidental. But CCTV footage later emerged that showed a man approaching the hut on two occasions, with a small explosion seen off camera shortly after his second visit.

The killing had been the focus of high-profile appeals over the past decade and cash rewards have been offered for information.

Last November, at an adjourned inquest into Stephen's death, a senior detective revealed that a "person of interest" had come to light who gardai wanted to speak to about the incident.

The suspect is understood to have decided to set fire on the hut that Stephen was in because he bizarrely blamed the makeshift structure for bringing antisocial elements to the area.

"He was annoyed about a stolen car flying around the estate that night -- he decided to target the hut because he thought there was some link between the hut and the stolen car.

"It is not known if he realised there were two little boys in it at the time," a source said.


The Ballyfermot man was first arrested by gardai in relation to Stephen's murder in April 2006 but was not charged when the DPP decided that there was not enough evidence.

However there have been a "number of significant breakthroughs" since then which ultimately led to the latest developments.

Sources say the suspect is a criminal who was much feared in the Tallaght area at the time of Stephen's killing and who also has links to a major Ballyfermot drugs gang.

He has previously served a jail sentence for stabbing a nightclub doorman and apart from drug dealing convictions has also been before the courts for robbery, aggravated burglary and possession of a firearm.

Stephen was a fifth-class student at St Thomas National School in Jobstown.

A huge investigation into the killing has been carried out by the detective unit at Tallaght Garda Station as well as the garda cold-case unit.

Stephen's mother Liz Hughes posted on Facebook: "Eleven years since Stephen's death, I will finally see justice being done for my son.

"It will never bring him back but we will finally have closure on this horrible nightmare.

"I will never forget you my love. May you finally have peace."