€500,000 cash found in Dublin 'head shop' after fire

GARDAÍ ARE treating as arson a fire at a so-called head shop that completely destroyed the unit and a number of neighbouring …

GARDAÍ ARE treating as arson a fire at a so-called head shop that completely destroyed the unit and a number of neighbouring outlets last Friday.

However, the exact cause of the blaze may never be known because most of the building has had to be demolished for safety reasons.

Almost €500,000 in cash found under the floorboards of the Nirvana head shop on Capel Street in Dublin’s north inner city was kept by gardaí for safe keeping over the weekend.

The money was found in a safe under the floorboards of the shop, which sells legal highs, while fire fighters were making the premises safe after bringing the blaze under control on Friday evening.

The money was taken, with the permission of shop owner Jim Bellamy, to the Bridewell Garda station. Garda sources said the cash has not been seized, adding it would be returned to Mr Bellamy for lodgement in the bank as early as this morning.

The cash is believed to be the proceeds of Mr Bellamy’s retail business, which includes head shops and adult stores.

The blaze that destroyed the Nirvana outlet began around the same time local residents reported hearing a loud bang coming from the shop, at 6am on Friday.

The fire quickly engulfed the shop and two adjacent retail units. Five units of the Dublin Fire Brigade, including units from Tara Street, Phibsboro and North Strand stations, brought the blaze under control at 11am.

The fire was not fully extinguished until 5pm, some 11 hours after it appears to have started.

The scene remained sealed off on Friday and over the weekend. Much of the affected buildings have already been demolished for fear they would collapse onto the street or into other buildings.

Gardaí believe the fire was started deliberately, probably by a burning accelerant being thrown into the building from the street. Members of the Garda Technical Bureau will begin a full examination of the site this morning.

The Garda’s on-scene investigation may take a number of days.

Said one Garda source: “We’ll obviously have a much better idea when the technical bureau have a look at it but because the buildings have had to be demolished it may be more difficult than usual to get firm answers.”

Mr Bellamy on Friday said he believed the fire was arson. He said his shop had been targeted because of a “disgusting” media campaign conducted against outlets such as his in recent months.

Nirvana operates six shops in the Republic, including two in Dublin city centre. Other stores are in Galway city, Limerick city, Newbridge, Co Kildare, Portlaoise, Co Laois, and Bray, Co Wicklow.

The two shops in Dublin and the outlets in Portlaoise and Bray trade seven days, remaining open until 4am Thursday to Sunday.

It also has two UK stores. Its website claims Nirvana is the biggest head shop chain in Europe. It offers free delivery worldwide for purchases via the internet.