| 3.8°C Belfast

Mother who torched home while son slept set fire to herself too, Newry court told

Close

A former Co Down nurse who could have killed her son in a drunken arson incident has been given a two-year probation order (stock photo)

A former Co Down nurse who could have killed her son in a drunken arson incident has been given a two-year probation order (stock photo)

A former Co Down nurse who could have killed her son in a drunken arson incident has been given a two-year probation order (stock photo)

A former Co Down nurse who could have killed her son in a drunken arson incident has been given a two-year probation order.

Donna Fitzpatrick was the cause of over 170 emergency police calls in two years to her own home, a judge at Newry crown court was told.

The arson case was due to go to trial in January, but a late plea was entered and the defendant rearraigned.

Fitzpatrick (50), of Longstone Road, Annalong, pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life or property on July 3, 2019.

She had served five months in custody on remand following the arson at her home, when she also set fire to her hair.

The court heard the background to the case, which outlined the night in question involving an intoxicated Ms Fitzpatrick, who has suffered from mental health issues compounded by the death of her mother and mother-in-law and the break-up of her marriage.

The court heard the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service was contacted by the PSNI at 4pm on the day in question.

Fitzpatrick was taken from the scene to Daisy Hill Hospital where she remained an inpatient until July 5.

A previous record showed that she had received a three-month suspended sentence in 2018 for assaulting an ambulance worker.

The injured party, the "juvenile son" of the defendant, spoke to the authorities, with the police wearing body cameras at the time of the arson. A written statement was later provided.

The son stated that he had returned home from work at 3pm to find his mother in her bedroom lying drunk with a bottle of wine.

He removed the wine bottle, but was met with verbal abuse from his mother.

The son then went into the living room to lie down and fell asleep.

At 3.52pm the injured party's phone rang and he woke up to also hear the smoke alarm in the house going off.

He discovered his mother in the hallway on the floor with the curtains on fire.

When he approached her, she began to set fire to dry reeds in a plant pot.

The son covered the reeds and threw them outside before getting himself and his mother out of the house, as well as the family dog.

Neighbours and a couple passing by came to their assistance and threw buckets of water over the flames.

Fitzpatrick then took a blue lighter out and set fire to her own hair.

The shocked onlookers managed to put the fire out in her hair with a cup of water. Whilst in custody on remand, the drastic effects of the flames to Fitzpatrick's scalp could be seen.

During police interview, she claimed the matter had been an accident.

She stated that she had lifted a candle and burnt her fingers causing her to drop a tea-light candle on to the curtains.

However, she later pleaded guilty to the charge.

His Honour Judge Gordon Kerr alluded to the continued indecisiveness of the defendant on whether or not to accept psychiatric help.

He warned Fitzpatrick: "If you do not cooperate with probation and are brought back before me for alternative sentencing, it will be a prison sentence of two years."

Belfast Telegraph