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Lisburn woman jailed for arson at flats that endangered lives of neighbours

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A Lisburn woman who claimed she was the child of Satan after causing a fire that endangered the lives of her neighbours was sentenced to three years yesterday

A Lisburn woman who claimed she was the child of Satan after causing a fire that endangered the lives of her neighbours was sentenced to three years yesterday

A Lisburn woman who claimed she was the child of Satan after causing a fire that endangered the lives of her neighbours was sentenced to three years yesterday

A Lisburn woman who claimed she was the child of Satan after causing a fire that endangered the lives of her neighbours was sentenced to three years yesterday.

Nicola Jane Kerr set fire to a bag of clothes at the front door of her ground floor flat at Glenmore Walk last August.

Four residents in the apartment block managed to escape from the blaze by climbing out their windows.

The 54-year old, who has mental health issues, which Craigavon Crown Court sitting in Belfast heard were worsened by her long-standing drug misuse, appeared in court via a video-link from Hydebank prison.

Judge Patrick Lynch handed her a three-year sentence, which was divided between a year in custody and two on licence.

He said the extended period on licence was necessary as Kerr would need intense support when she is released.

Crown barrister Ian Tannahill said the Fire Service was called to the apartments at 10pm on Thursday, August 1 last year.

Kerr made the 999 call, where she was recorded talking about God and Satan, and when firefighters arrived at Glenmore Walk they dealt with the blaze.

Mr Tannahill said that while four other occupants in the block escaped, Kerr was arrested a short time later in a phone box.

The prosecutor said the blaze caused smoke and scorch damage to the communal hall area, the stairwell and the entrance of the apartment block, which cost just over £16,000 to repair.

During interview Kerr initially denied causing the fire and was "vague and evasive" about her movements. She later admitted setting fire to a bag of clothes at her front door.

Defence barrister Joel Lindsay spoke of Kerr's significant mental health issues, which include paranoia and a personality disorder.

He also highlighted concerns about Kerr's ability to live on her own following spells in hospital for her mental health, and said questions will be asked whether or not she should have been released.

Mr Lindsay said that on the evening in question Kerr "clearly was not in the right frame of mind", as was evidenced when she told a neighbour: "I am the child of Satan."

The barrister said that while on remand in Hydebank Kerr is now taking her medication, has completed several courses and is fully engaging with the services supporting her.

Mr Lindsay concluded by saying that when released Kerr will need "considerable help", and has expressed a desire to try and resolve the issues in her life.

Sentencing Kerr, Judge Lynch accepted she had a troubled family background and suffered from mental health issues, which he said had been exacerbated by drug use, including heroin and cocaine.

The judge noted that prior to the fire Kerr had been deemed a "problem tenant" due to her behaviour.

Turning to the offence, Judge Lynch said it was fortunate that no one was injured.

Praising the neighbours who escaped through windows, he said: "Any offence which endangers the lives of others is serious."

Belfast Telegraph