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Girl (5) too scared to go home after arson, trial told

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 20/01/2016

Montassar Ghadghadi
Montassar Ghadghadi

A woman has told how her granddaughter was too frightened to return home after a neighbouring property was set alight in an arson attack.

Audrey Smyth was giving evidence at the trial of 25-year-old Montassar Ghadghadi, from Clonavon Avenue in Portadown, who is facing two charges arising from the fire.

Ghadghadi denies both arson endangering life and the second charge of arson.

The Tunisian national is accused of setting fire to a house at Market Street Court in Tandragee on June 9, 2013.

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

The female occupant - who rented the property - was not at home at the time of the blaze. She was described in court as a friend of Ghadghadi's girlfriend and as someone who "didn't get on particularly well" with the accused.

Ms Smyth, whose son and family lived in the house next door at the time of the arson attack, was babysitting her two young grandchildren on the date of the incident.

She told the court how that morning she had been woken up by banging coming from next door, which she attributed to her young female neighbour.

Ms Smyth left her three-year old granddaughter and 11-month old grandson upstairs sleeping and went downstairs, where she opened the front door because it was a sunny day.

She said: "I sat down on the sofa and pulled out my son's laptop and just at that a policeman came in through the door and said: 'Are there any kids in the house? You need to get out, there is a fire next door'."

Ms Smyth told how her granddaughter "woke up terrified" and was then "in an awful state" as she and the policeman brought the youngsters out into the street as they waited for the Fire Service.

Ms Smyth said at this stage she could see the house next door in flames and told the court she was "relieved" to have got herself and the children out.

She also revealed that her son's home was badly smoke-damaged and said that her granddaughter refused to return to the house and that the family "never lived there again".

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

He said he had been nowhere near the property that morning, claimed he had been at his girlfriend's since 2am and had not left before going outside and being arrested by police.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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