Belfast Telegraph

Murder accused all admit pouring petrol at scene of fatal house blaze that killed sex abuser Thomas O'Hare and girlfriend Lisa McClatchey

By Paul Higgins

Four brothers accused of the revenge murder of a paedophile have for the first time admitted pouring petrol around the house of the victim, whose girlfriend also died because of the blaze.

On the final day of the prosecution case at the Armagh Crown Court trial, prosecuting QC Toby Hedworth told the jury the Smith brothers accept taking three petrol containers to Thomas O'Hare's home and that it was "distributed around the house".

All four deny the murders of 33-year-old Mr O'Hare and his 21-year-old girlfriend Lisa McClatchey and arson with intent to endanger life in November 2006.

"Each of the four defendants were present in Mr O'Hare's house at the time of the fire," the lawyer told the jury.

It is the Crown case that the four Smith brothers – Martin (40), Niall (37), Christopher (33) and Stephen (31) – launched their murderous attack in revenge for the sexual abuse Thomas perpetrated on Stephen Smith in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Within days of the attack, the couple succumbed to multiple organ failure, brought about by burns to 80% of their bodies, injuries described by State Pathologist for Northern Ireland Prof Jack Crane as injuries which "invariably prove fatal".

Yesterday, the jury heard for the first time that O'Hare had abused three boys. The court heard that when he sexually assaulted Stephen Smith once in the early 1990s, he had pushed the defendant off his bike and then touched him inappropriately.

O'Hare was convicted of five counts of indecent assault in February 2000 and was put on probation for two years, the jury were told.

Earlier, Mr Hedworth read a statement from the mother of Stephen Smith's child. In it, Shauna Finn told police she knew Stephen had been abused by O'Hare but that "he did not like to talk about it".

In the weeks before the attack, Ms Finn said Stephen had told her he had seen the man who had abused him driving "in and out" of the area near his home address, but that she had no idea any attack against him was planned.

Mr Hedworth added that the brothers now accepted that Niall Smith had bought the masks two weeks before the attack, that they had been wearing them at the time of the attack, and that after the fire they took a borrowed Vauxhall Vectra to a quarry and burnt it out, and then fled to Louth County Hospital in Dundalk where each were admitted for serious burn injuries.

The jury heard that at the hospital the brothers gave a false account of being involved in a car crash and were burnt when the car went on fire.

The brothers, the court heard, had themselves sustained serious burns to anywhere between 30% and 40% of their bodies.

"All four were critical and not expected to live," Ms Finn said in her statement.

Mr Justice Weatherup asked the jury to come back on Monday.

BACKGROUND

Seven years ago this month, convicted sex abuser Thomas O'Hare (33) and his girlfriend Lisa McClatchey (21) were attacked and horrifically burned in a fire. Both later died of their injuries. A masked gang burst into Thomas' home on the Foley Road near Tassagh and poured petrol around the house.

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