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Man jailed for 'fireball' arson attack on ex-lover, her mother and his son

By Gerry McLaughlin

A Co Tyrone man who petrol bombed the home of his former partner, their three-year-old child and her mother has been jailed for three-and-a-half years at Dungannon Crown Court.

Stuart Harkness made no attempt to contact police or the emergency services after setting the house ablaze in a "fireball", Judge Stephen Fowler noted.

He told 26-year-old Harkness, of Moygashel Park in Moygashel, the cold fact was that this was a chilling and deliberate attack on the lives of three people, including a very young child, who were "put into very real and considerable danger".

"He made the petrol bombs, he transported them and he set them alight," he said.

The judge added the fear the mother, grandmother and child went through could only be imagined.

He said it was "all the more chilling" considering there was a three-year-old child in the house.

The defendant, who has already served 11 months in custody, had filled five bottles with petrol and set them alight on February 9, 2016.

The defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of arson, endangering the lives of Shirley Gordon, Karen Gordon and Lewis Gordon, and guilty to a charge of making petrol bombs on the same date.

Harkness had admitted making the petrol bombs and setting fire to his ex-partner's house, saying he wanted to scare her after their relationship broke down.

He claimed he was suffering from considerable stress at the time, and said he did not intend to harm anyone. Judge Fowler said the injured party had made a victim impact statement outlining how she was afraid of living in her home, and had thought of leaving the property, and that the incident also had a significant effect on her mother and her son.

The judge said an aggravating factor was that this was an attack on a family.

It arose out of an acrimonious breakdown of a relationship and was "a grave example of domestic violence". And he pointed out it happened at night, at a time when the mother, grandmother and three-year-old child were asleep in their beds.

The attack was premeditated - five petrol bombs were prepared, transported to the scene, and placed at the front door of the injured party's house, causing a fireball.

Harkness will serve 21 months in custody, and the same on licence after release.

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