A burglar who stuffed wheelie bins with paper and started a fire outside the home of a doctor's family had embarked on his plan to kill them, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Senior judges rejected a claim that Roy Martin Kerr did not go beyond the preparatory stage during the attack on the house in east Belfast.
The 33-year-old was attempting to overturn his conviction for the attempted murder of Dr Raymond White, his wife Aileen, and their son David in May 2008.
He was also found guilty of arson and attempted arson of three family cars and jailed for a minimum of 10 years. Dr White, who has since died, and his wife were at the time due to testify against Kerr about an earlier burglary on the Whites’ home.
Wheelie bins had been placed at each door of the house and set alight. The family were asleep in bed and only alerted when the arsonist set fire to his own hand and screamed in pain. Earlier this month the Court of Appeal refused leave to challenge the convictions, but only yesterday gave reasons for its decision.
Kerr, originally from Inverness but at the time living on Belfast's Shore Road, wanted to appeal on three grounds.
His lawyers claimed there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that he had the requisite intention to kill the members of the White family.
But rejecting this submission, Lord Justice Girvan said: “He had started the acts necessary to bring about his plan to murder the members of the White family and burn their cars.
“Moreover, it is artificial to view the arson counts as distinct from the commencement of the implementation of his murder plan.
“The acts were all inter-related and the applicant had started the execution of the plan.”
Lord Justice Girvan also dismissed a claim by Kerr that the trial judge had misled the jury, describing the directions given as exemplary in their clarity.
A second ground of appeal was that the jury gave inconsistent verdicts between Kerr and his co-accused girlfriend who was cleared of attempted murder but found guilty of arson, attempted arson and handling stolen goods.
The court held that it was entirely open to the jury to draw lesser inference against the co-accused from the evidence.