Neighbour accepts manslaughter but denies murders of three generations of same family
A man charged with causing a fire which killed four members of the same family in Co Fermanagh has pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter “due to a suicide pact”.
Denise Gossett (45), her son Roman (16), daughter Sabrina (19) and Sabrina’s baby daughter Morgana (15 months) died in the blaze which ripped through their rented home on Molly Road in Derrylin on February 27, 2018.
Daniel Sebastian Allen (31), who lived on the same street, previously pleaded not guilty to murder and not guilty to one count of arson with intent to endanger life.
When Allen appeared before Dungannon Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, via video-link from Maghaberry Prison on Friday, defence barrister Ian Turkington asked for his client to be re-arraigned on the counts of murdering Denise and Sabrina Gossett.
When both charges were put to him, Allen pleaded not guilty to their murders but guilty to manslaughter “due to a suicide pact”.
However, the accused still denies the murders of Roman and Morgana, claiming they were already dead.
Mr Justice O’Hara said the trial could go ahead towards the end of October this year but he would have to review progress in the case later next month.
The fire, which killed three generations of the same family, shocked the local community. Landlord Tommy Fee (60) previously told the Belfast Telegraph how he had battled in vain to rescue the victims, an experience that resulted in him suffering “flashbacks and trauma”.
The property was destroyed in the blaze, with a toy doll among the few items to escape being charred by the flames. A heart-wrenching picture showed it covered in ashes, its once golden hair turned dull grey.
Mr Fee said he felt “left in limbo” after racing to the scene, breaking down a door and smashing a window with a sledgehammer in a bid to save the victims.
He told how he and two neighbours had been “beaten back by big balls of black smoke” created by the flames.
“I find it difficult to sleep and I’ve gone to the doctor to get help,” Mr Fee said.
“My wife and daughter have also been receiving medical attention. We’re hoping it won’t stay with us for ever.”
Rev Alastair Davidson, the rector in charge of Kinawley and Holy Trinity Parish, organised a memorial service shortly after the tragedy in a bid to comfort the community.
Denise’s sisters, Frances and Susan, praised Mr Fee’s “immense bravery” when they spoke publicly to thank the emergency services and local residents for their efforts to save the family.
“We still can’t believe we will never see or hear from them [the victims] again,” they told this newspaper at the time.
The grieving siblings remembered their youngest sister Dee as an “intensely private person who kept herself to herself and didn’t go out much”.
They also described her as “a lovely woman with a fine sense of humour and fun”.
They remembered Sabrina, meanwhile, as “a loveable young woman who was very much like her mother” and wholly dedicated to her daughter.