A MAN has been found guilty of setting a children’s makeshift den on fire causing the death of a boy over 13 years ago.
Stephen Hughes was 12 years old in 2001 when he died in the fire in the den where he had been sleeping overnight.
Dermot Griffin (54), of Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to manslaughter at Rossfield Avenue, Tallaght on September 1, 2001.
After a 13-day trial the jury of six men and six women deliberated for just over six hours before returning the majority verdict.
Judge Patricia Ryan remanded Griffin in custody until June 3 when she will pass sentence.
Supporters of the victim’s family shouted “yes” when the verdict was read out in court and his mother Liz began crying. The accused stared ahead impassively throughout proceedings.
The main evidence against Griffin came from three witnesses who placed him at the scene. Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, said that a “very dramatic change” came in the case in 2012 when one of these witness, Tracey Deegan, came forward and told gardai she had lied in 2001 to cover for Griffin.
Ms Deegan (38) said that Griffin, her former partner, wanted to burn the hut because “he didn’t want joyriders in the area, he didn’t want guards in the area”.
The jury heard that in 2011 Griffin’s former partner Tracey Deegan (38) told gardai that Griffin was at home with her on the night and told her he was going out to burn it down.
She said that he went out and came back and told her he had felt a foot in the hut but that he still intended to set it on fire. He took some paper and went out again, she told the court.
Shortly after his return the couple heard shouting and they both went out and saw the fire.
She said: “Dermot looked at me in a shocked manner. He said there were kids in that”.
Ms Deegan had originally told gardai in 2001 that Griffin had stayed on the sofa with her all that night after they had smoked heroin and watched a movie. She told this trial that she was covering up for Griffin and had been coached.
A neighbour Linda Prentice, who was also a heroin addict at the time, said she saw Griffin throw a lit white object into the hut and that the hut then went on fire.
The trial also heard that James Farrelly told gardai that Griffin had come up to him on the night and told him “if you open your mouth he’d kill me”.