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Arson trial told granny and children had lucky escape

By Michael Donnelly

Published 12/01/2016

Denials: Montassar Ghadghadi
Denials: Montassar Ghadghadi

A woman babysitting her two young grandchildren aged three and 11 months had to be evacuated from her son's home after the house next door was targeted by an arsonist, a court has heard.

Montassar Ghadghadi denies breaking in and setting fire to the semi-detached house in Market Street Court, Tandragee, Co Armagh.

The 25-year-old, from Clonavon Avenue, Craigavon, is accused of two charges of destroying property by arson on June 9, 2013, including being reckless as to whether the life of another would be endangered, or whether the house would be destroyed.

Prosecution lawyer Fiona O'Kane told trial Judge Kevin Finnegan and a jury at Newry Crown Court that a man seen breaking into the house by witnesses shortly before the fire was Ghadghadi, and "effectively" it was her case he set fire to the house.

Ms O'Kane said at the conclusion of the evidence the jury would be satisfied Ghadghadi deliberately set the fire and was reckless as to the safety of others.

The lawyer said that shortly after 9am that morning the alarm was raised when smoke was seen coming from the building.

The property was rented out to a woman who was a friend of Ghadghadi's girlfriend, but away at the time.

Next door was Audrey Smyth and her two young grandchildren, who would tell the court how the alarm was raised and how she and the children had to leave.

In all £50,000 worth of damage was caused to the semi, with substantial smoke damage to the house next door.

Ms O'Kane said that subsequent investigations indicated that there had been more than one seat of fire.

Ghadghadi was arrested later that same day and police recovered clothing from a washing machine and a pair of shoes which were forensically examined.

Traces of glass found on the shoes were said to match that from a glass door in the house that was set on fire.

During interview Ghadghadi denied having anything to do with the arson attack, maintaining he had been in his girlfriend's home from 2am that day, and that he "did not do this".

The trial, expected to last up to a fortnight, continues today.

Belfast Telegraph

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