Girl (5) died after man set house on fire, court told


A FIVE-YEAR-OLD girl died after a man set fire to a house because he was in a rage over finding his girlfriend lying on a bed with another man a few weeks earlier, Roscommon Circuit Court heard yesterday.

Mari Keane-Connolly from 49 Termon Road, Boyle, Co Roscommon, died after her home “became an inferno” in the early hours of October 3rd, last year.

Teresa Keane, in an emotional victim impact statement, said her daughter “had been killed for nothing” and no apology would bring her back. Abuse was shouted at John Lynch, with an address at 39 Church View in Boyle, when he was led into court.

Mari Keane-Connolly was asleep upstairs with two sisters and her father Richard Connolly when Lynch (33), entered the house and set it on fire.

The court was told Lynch had been in a rage since August when his girlfriend, Anita O’Hara, went to a party in the Connolly house in the early hours of August 21st and did not come home.

Lynch went to the house the following morning and found his girlfriend upstairs in bed with John “Boy” Connolly, an uncle of the deceased young girl.

Lynch assaulted both of them before taking his girlfriend home and the court was told by Supt Tom Mullarkey that Lynch had taken the incident very badly.

The court heard Lynch was celebrating his birthday with Ms O’Hara at a nightclub in Carrick-on-Shannon on October 2nd, and both of them had been drinking and using cocaine for hours, when Lynch saw John Connolly and tried to assault him with a broken bottle.

Lynch was still angry when he went home with Ms O’Hara and assaulted her, using a steel curtain pole to beat her, breaking her jaw.

Lynch then left the house and rang her a while later. Supt Mullarkey said that Lynch told Ms O’Hara: “Precious John Boy’s house is burning and the rats in Termon have nowhere to live”.

Judge Anthony Hunt was told that John Connolly was staying at the house belonging to his brother Richard at 49 Termon Road.

The door of the house was unlocked when Lynch arrived as John Connolly had not returned home.

Richard Connolly’s three daughters Lauren (8), Naomi (7) and Mari were staying with him as his ex-partner, Ms Keane, was in hospital giving birth to twins that weekend.

Mr Connolly awoke when he heard a bang about 2.30am. When he opened the bedroom door he was engulfed in smoke. He managed to get his three daughters out a window on to a roof. He jumped to the ground but fell on concrete steps which caused serious spinal injuries and which prevented him from moving.

In a statement, Mr Connolly said he pleaded with the three girls to jump. Two of them, Lauren and Naomi, did but Mari was afraid and went back into the house.

Her body was found by firemen shortly after 5am. DNA evidence had to be used to identify her.

There were traces of white spirit found on Lynch’s clothes when he was arrested a few days later.

Supt Mullarkey said that Lynch had emerged as a suspect early in the case as they linked the assault on Ms O’Hara with the fire at the Connolly house.

Lynch was interviewed 12 times and denied starting the fire but admitted it after he was remanded in custody at Castlerea prison. Lynch told detectives that he was sorry for what he had done. He knew Mari as she played in the estate and he and his girlfriend had babysat her.

He wrote a handwritten apology to the child’s parents when he admitted the offence to detectives, saying he did not know the children were in the house.

But the child’s mother, Ms Keane, said she would never accept an apology from the person who killed her daughter.

“My heart is broken, there is not a second I don’t think of her and I would walk to the ends of the earth to get her back,” she said.

Lynch, who has 17 previous convictions and has a history of violent assaults, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arson and causing serious harm.

He will be sentenced at Roscommon Circuit Court next Tuesday.