A woman, who set fire to an apartment during a binge-drinking session, killing two of her friends, was pulled by gardaí from the burning building drunk and still clutching a bottle of cider.

Rachel Crawshaw, who was 28 at the time, and originally from Mallow in Co Cork, shouted abuse at the garda trying to save her from the burning Granary Court complex in the town in March 2014.

“Get your fucking hands off me. I’m not leaving without my bottle of cider,” she shouted at a garda.

She also had to be physically restrained outside the apartment block once she was escorted to safety.

The scene of the fatal fire at Granary Court, Mallow.
The scene of the fatal fire at Granary Court, Mallow.

And following a fire in the apartment block the previous month, on February 26, the block’s fire alarm system had been disabled pending a cleaning operation scheduled for just six days after the fatal fire.

The details emerged at a joint inquest yesterday into the deaths of John Palmer, aged 37, and Greg Lonergan, aged 36, who perished in the blaze in apartment 24 of Granary Court on March 13, 2014.

John Palmer.
John Palmer.

Coroner for North Cork, Dr Michael Kennedy, heard how Ms Crawshaw was among four people who had spent the previous day, March 12, on a drinking binge in the top floor apartment.

The alarm was raised just after midnight when neighbours spotted smoke. Garda O’Sullivan and Garda Liam Philips responded.

There was no lighting in the stairwell and they had to use their torches to find their way up several flights of stairs and through dense smoke to the top floor where they found Christopher Palmer unconscious and critically ill in a hallway and dragged him to safety, before Garda O’Sullivan pulled Rachel Crawshaw from a neighbouring apartment.

Despite intense heat and smoke, Garda Philips stayed with Mr Palmer as Garda O’Sullivan escorted a drunk and verbally abusive Ms Crawshaw to safety.

Garda O’Sullivan went back into the building and helped Garda Philips carry Mr Palmer to safety.

They then both entered the building again to evacuate other residents.

They both made another brave attempt to enter the building to try and save the two men still trapped in the burning apartment but they were beaten back by thick smoke.

Both were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Firefighters recovered the bodies of John Palmer and Greg Lonergan from apartment 24 a short time later. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Greg Lonergan.
Greg Lonergan.

Inspector Michael Corbett said that Ms Crawshaw was quickly identified as a suspect, but left the jurisdiction before the DPP recommended she face charges.

She was extradited from the UK to Ireland on February 22, 2016 and pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on April 19, 2016, to two counts of manslaughter, and to one count of arson at Granary Court.

The court heard she had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and was remorseful and she was sentenced last October to 15 years in prison, with five years suspended.

Dr Kennedy commended both gardaí for their bravery and said: “Your actions definitely saved lives.”

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Two men killed in Mallow apartment fireTwo men killed in Mallow apartment fire


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