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Arsonist facing prison for carrying out threat to torch woman's home

By Michael Donelly

Published 29/01/2016

Facing prison term: Montassar Ghadghadi
Facing prison term: Montassar Ghadghadi

A Tunisian national has been found guilty of an arson attack in which a grandmother and two youngsters were forced to flee.

This was the sixth time 25-year old Montassar Ghadghadi, from Clonavon Avenue in Portadown, had been before a jury for the attack on a house at Market Street Court in nearby Tandragee on June 9, 2013.

Yesterday a Belfast Crown Court jury found him guilty by an 11 to one majority decision.

Although the house was empty, a grandmother who was next door babysitting her three-year-old granddaughter and 11-month-old grandson had to be evacuated from their home.

The woman later revealed that because her granddaughter was too frightened to return to the family home they "never lived there again".

Judge Gordon Kerr QC, who told Ghadghadi that it was "highly likely" he would be facing jail, said he would pass sentence next month. As he was remanding Ghadghadi into custody, the Tunisian man claimed: "That's what we call racist. How can I be guilty?

"I didn't do it."

The jury of six men and six women had heard the damage caused to the targeted property amounted to more than £60,000, while smoke damage was also caused to the adjoining house.

Following an examination, it was determined there were two seats of fire - one in the living room and one in an upstairs bedroom.

The female occupant - who rented the house from a landlord - was herself a grandmother and a mother-of-three, but was not at home at the time.

She returned from a caravan break to find the house a "blackened mess" in which she lost everything, including photographs of deceased relatives.

The 43-year-old woman, a friend of Ghadghadi's girlfriend, claimed that four days prior to the arson he had threatened her, and she reported this to the police.

"He said he was going to come down and burn my house," she said.

She also claimed "there were some names he called me in his own language".

When Ghadghadi was arrested at his girlfriend's house later that morning he denied setting fire to the property.

He said he had been nowhere near the house that morning, claiming he had been at his girlfriend's since 2am until his arrest.

However, a local resident claimed she saw Ghadghadi walking both to and from the house in Market Street Court, and that a short time later she "heard a commotion" and saw smoke.

The neighbour said that despite not knowing his name, she recognised him as the boyfriend of a local girl whose friend she knew lived at the house.

She also later picked Ghadghadi out at a video identification procedure.

Belfast Telegraph

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