herald

Monday 21 April 2014

Tragic Mari's dad had arson warning call

THE father of arson victim Mari Connolly was warned that their home would be attacked but didn't take the threat seriously.

Richard Connolly from Boyle, Co Roscommon, saved himself and two of his daughters, Lauren (8) and Naomi (7), when their home was engulfed in flames in October of last year.

Despite his frantic efforts, Richard (27) was unable to lead little Mari Keane Connolly (5) to safety and she lost her life in the blaze.

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

John Lynch (33), 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 2.30am and was confronted at the door of the bedroom by smoke and flames.

Witnesses said he managed to get his three daughters out of a window on to a roof. 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 15pc, 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.

hnews@herald.ie

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