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Possible homophobic motive behind Derry nightclub arson attack, court hears

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21-year-old Sebastian Szczap, charged with arson of Envy Nightclub in Londonderry in January.

21-year-old Sebastian Szczap, charged with arson of Envy Nightclub in Londonderry in January.

Fire at the Envy nightclub at Strand Road.

Fire at the Envy nightclub at Strand Road.

21-year-old Sebastian Szczap, charged with arson of Envy Nightclub in Londonderry in January.

An arson attack on a Northern Ireland nightclub may have been motivated by homophobia, a court has been told.

Polish man Sebastian Szczap (21) appeared at a special sitting of Londonderry Magistrates Court on Saturday charged with the arson of the Envy Nightclub in the Strand Road area of the city in January.

A police officer told District Judge Ted Magill that she believed there was a risk that because the nightclub was an LGBT-friendly venue, the offence might have been motivated by hostility towards the LGBT community.

A defence lawyer said there was no evidence the offence was motivated by hostility.

Szczap, from Kular Court in Sackville Street, Derry, is charged with the arson of the nightclub on the night of January 9 this year. Damage to the building was estimated at £250,000.

The District Judge said CCTV footage showed a man, wearing a hat, entering the nightclub through an unsecured rear door shortly before the blaze was discovered.

The man was recorded on the footage throwing the hat away. It was later recovered by the police and, following a forensic examination, the defendant’s DNA was found on it. Clothes found in his flat upon his arrest were similar to those worn by the man on the CCTV footage.

Opposing bail, the police officer said she believed the defendant, if released, would return to Poland because of the long custodial sentence he would receive if convicted of the arson. A defence barrister said his client had lived in Derry for the last four years with his mother and sister.

Refusing bail, Mr Magill said the defendant had twice failed to attend court and he also took into consideration the police objections.

Szczap was remanded in custody until April 16.

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