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Cookstown woman jailed for setting fire to her family home

Husband and son rescued in early morning arson attack

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A Cookstown woman who admitted torching her home while she and two members of her family were inside, has been jailed, but will be freed imminently due to time served

A Cookstown woman who admitted torching her home while she and two members of her family were inside, has been jailed, but will be freed imminently due to time served

A Cookstown woman who admitted torching her home while she and two members of her family were inside, has been jailed, but will be freed imminently due to time served

A Cookstown woman who admitted torching her home while she and two members of her family were inside, has been jailed, but will be freed imminently due to time served.

Gillian McCutcheon (64) from Millburn Avenue, but remanded in custody since her arrest, damaged the property by fire on April 11 2019, in the process unlawfully and maliciously inflicted grievous bodily harm on a male and causing actual bodily harm to a second.

The victims were the accused's husband and son, and the incident occurred in their family home. It was previously disclosed the smoke alarm alerted one of the occupants to the blaze and NI Fire & Rescue Service attended, shortly before 7.30am.

McCutcheon and her husband were rescued from the kitchen area and their then 30-year-old son was found upstairs. All three required treatment for smoke inhalation. The husband sustained very serious injuries and was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

The police said the fire appeared to have been started deliberately inside the property. Witnesses described smoke billowing from the house while a distressed male was crying out for help from an upstairs window.

McCutcheon was arrested a few days later. She initially pleaded not guilty to all matters in July but changed this last month on being re-arraigned at Dungannon Crown Court.

The case returned for sentencing on Wednesday where defence lawyers successfully argued McCutcheon's actions were not intentional as she was inebriated with no understanding of what she was doing.

However Judge Brian Sherrard said: "It doesn't appear, in the totality of this case intention is of particular significance. It is perhaps trite to say, but this represents an exceptionally serious incident, spawning four separate charges, each to be looked at on their own merits. This matter could very easily indeed have led to the death of the defendant, her husband and her son."

The judge was mindful of McCutcheon's previous record although there are no entries for arson, and said: "The defendant presents as a troubled person who has difficulties with alcohol abuse and mental health issues. She has demonstrated remorse and made strides to engage with facilities available to her in custody."

While a pre-sentence report placed McCutcheon at a high risk of reoffending, she was not considered to be dangerous under the legal definition.

The arson charges were noted to have caused significant injuries but given the guilty pleas, Judge Sherrard held the correct sentence was 2 years and eight months imprisonment. That was split as half in custody and half on licence. McCutcheon will be released imminently as time was served on remand.

Belfast Telegraph