'May you burn in hell' - message Karen Hasson sent husband before starting Carryduff home fire that killed elderly neighbour
A woman who started a fire at her home that killed an elderly man had sent her husband a Facebook message that read: "May you burn in hell."
Karen Hasson (59) has admitted the manslaughter of 91-year-old Samuel Carson, who died in his home almost two years ago.
Downpatrick Crown Court heard that Hasson, of Thorndale Park, Carryduff, had started the fire in the garage of their home which ignited the family oil tank after she had a row with her husband over furniture.
Burning oil then spread to a house next door before a river of ignited fuel flowed down to Mr Carson's oil tank, setting it on fire, engulfing his bungalow and killing him. The pensioner died as a result of smoke inhalation.
Prosecution barrister Sam Magee told Judge Piers Grant: "This defendant set fire to the property whilst angry with her husband and in an apparent cry for help arising from her frailties in her own mental health."
He said that on September 1, 2014, she was living at the marital home with her husband Brian when she started the fire. The couple's relationship was strained, he stated.
"On August 31, they had engaged in an argument over the layout of furniture in the house," the prosecutor told the court. "Her daughter had called with her that day and noted Karen Hasson was in tears and told her that her relationship with Brian was over, but this was not unusual."
The court heard that on September 1, 2014, Mr Hasson had gone upstairs to the bedroom around 8pm to watch television. Some time after 10.30pm, when he had fallen asleep, he was woken by his wife, who sounded agitated, calling out for him.
"He could see her standing on the path at the side of the garage. She was fully dressed and was holding a hose trying to extinguish the flames." The court was told that Mr Hasson grabbed the hose but there was not enough pressure to put out the blaze.
He called the emergency services, and later told police: "She (his wife) said it was her fault and stated she had been in the garage, had a cigarette, came out of the garage and was sitting on the wall at the rear of the garden. She said she had heard an alarm and opened the garage door and found the fire. Mr Hasson noticed she had been drinking but was not drunk.
Judge Grant heard that a neighbour said Karen Hasson told her around 1.10am: "I tried to kill myself. It was my fault. I know I have caused this. It was my fault."
Mr Magee told the court: "She (Hasson) told her (daughter) that the previous day she had transferred all her money to her daughter saying she wanted her to 'make the most of it'. Her daughter believes she wished to take her own life. On September 1, she discovered the £900 in her account."
The prosecutor said that on September 3, Hasson woke up and told her husband: "I can't live like this. I have to take responsibility for my own action."
The following day, after consulting with her solicitor and her GP, she met police but gave a 'no comment' to all questions.
During follow-up police inquiries, detectives found a message on Facebook from Hasson to her husband dated September 1.
It read: "YOU REALLY ARE A B****** - may you burn in hell. You and **** really are quite alike. Both using women to get what you want. Mind you, I am a great believer in what goes around, comes around.
"I would like to say it was nice knowing you ... but it wasn't! You caused so much pain and hurt over the years and you seem to take enjoyment."
Following the blaze, fire crews found Mr Carson at his neighbouring bungalow. He died at the scene.
The court heard that Mr Hasson was considering leaving his wife in September 2014.
Their deceased neighbour, Mr Carson, a widower, was said to have been a "well-loved member of the local community" and a long-standing member of Carryduff Baptist Church. He was also an animal lover who kept horses.
Paddy Lyttle QC, defending, told the court that at the time of the incident, his client was suffering from "significant anguish and mental distress", and in the days before the fire had "reached the end of her tether".
He said it was clear that she had been suffering from a "depressive episode" and following the fire she was admitted to hospital for two months during which she was under round the clock supervision as she was classed as a suicide risk.
"She has asked me to express the most heartfelt sympathy, her condolences, her sorrow, her regret, her remorse for what she did," said Mr Lyttle.
"Whatever sentence is imposed by this court it will be nothing in comparison to the guilt she will have to live with for the rest of her life."
He urged the court not to send Hasson to prison, saying a pre-sentence report stated she could be dealt with by way of a combined community service and probation order.
Judge Grant said he required some time to "consider the appropriate sentence" and would pass his sentence next week.
The judge told her defence QC: "It is with some hesitation I will grant continuing bail. But do not misinterpret that as an indication that she will not receive a custodial sentence. I will impose the appropriate sentence next week."