Anger over text spurred arson attacks

A middle-aged man who was upset about texts he was getting from a younger relative made two attempts to burn down the apartment building where the relative was living.

Garda Michelle O’Leary said yesterday at the sentencing hearing for Paul Deegan, 45, at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the accused’s relative was resident at the house where Deegan started fires on two occasions.

“It was his intention to kill (him). He had no remorse, but said he was sorry for the other people living in the building. He said he would not pay for the damage, he said he could not pay anyway — €17,260 was the total damage caused,” Garda O’Leary said.

Defence barrister Niamh Stewart said Deegan had become estranged from his family and co-operated fully with the Garda inquiry.

“He was receiving text messages and some calls from (the relative). He was aggrieved about what was going on between himself and (the relative). He was angry at the time,” Ms Stewart said.

Ms Stewart said the defendant had mild learning difficulties and had been living on the street and was currently living in a flat on Lower Glanmire Road.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “This was a very serious offence. In the first one, people’s lives were put at risk. I have many doubts that this poor man is getting support in the community.

“This is a very serious case. I want to be fully informed of the difficulties and handicaps the accused is labouring under.

“I will adjourn and require the accused to attend the probation service to see what can be put in place by way of structure.”

Sentencing was adjourned until Feb 18 next year.

Deegan admitted committing arson to the ground floor of 12 Sheares Street, Cork, on Dec 27, 2011, intending or being reckless to the endangerment of life of another person and a related charge. On Jan 2, 2012, Deegan entered the same property as a trespasser and committed arson, damaging the ground floor stairway, and intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct which created a risk of death of serious harm to another.

In the first arson incident, a mattress was set on fire in the hall downstairs forcing the evacuation of all three apartments in the building. Apart from one man who received medical attention for smoke inhalation there were no injuries.

In the second arson incident a few days later Deegan bought cooking oil and a newspaper at a nearby shop and set these on fire in the hall. This was discovered and easily extinguished with a basin of water. The damage was caused by smoke from the first arson attack.


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