Monday 24 June 2019

Woman who set blaze that killed grandmother is jailed for 12 years

Nicola Kavanagh
Nicola Kavanagh

A woman who set fire to a house causing the death of a disabled grandmother has been jailed for 12 years, with the last four suspended.

In a victim-impact statement at Dundalk circuit criminal court, the deceased woman's family said they cannot forgive the accused who inflicted "a terrible pain" on them.

Nicola Kavanagh (28) of Rathmullen Park, Drogheda, admitted the manslaughter of Eva Berrill (73). She also ­pleaded guilty to arson to the Berrill family home on the Chord Road, Drogheda, Co Louth.

Judge Michael O'Shea praised the courageous actions of the man who dragged Mrs Berrill from her downstairs bedroom after the fire was started at 12.50am on August 16, 2014.

Mrs Berrill, who was paralysed and needed a wheelchair, died in the burns unit of St James's Hospital in Dublin 96 days after the fire.

She had burns to 12pc of her body and was not strong enough to tolerate surgery.

Senior Investigating Officer detective inspector Pat Marry said that CCTV had captured Kavanagh setting fire to the net curtains in the downstairs bedroom that Mrs Berrill slept in.

The court heard it was a warm summer's night and the window had been left open.


Det Inspector Marry said Kavanagh could be "clearly seen" lighting paper and putting it in the open window.

This paper went out and she had lit a second piece of paper which caught the net curtain.

"You can see the flames on CCTV," he told Judge O'Shea.

Kavanagh and three men walked past the house again at which point it was obvious the fire has taken hold, he added.

A member of the public raised the alarm.

Judge O'Shea also praised the actions of Colin Carter who had "fearlessly and courageously put his life at risk" by going into the house and dragging Mrs Berrill onto the street.

Kavanagh's defence barrister Mr Roderick O'Hanlon said she was truly sorry and ashamed and "never intended any of this to happen".

Kavanagh had a chronic alcohol and drug problem and had also been on Xanex and pain medication at the time.

In a victim impact statement, read by their son Des, Mrs Berrill's husband Oliver said his family had visited her every day in hospital and watched her suffer.

"We lived in hope she would pull through and return home to her family where she belonged," he said. "We cannot forgive Nicola Kavanagh for what she has done. She has broken up our family, we can never again be together, she has inflicted a terrible pain on our family."

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