Arsonist believed friend was getting ‘raw deal’ in inheritance

Guilty plea entered to arson charge at Whitechurch shopping centre, Ballyboden, Dublin

The judge ordered that Colm Dowling abstain from alcohol and undergo residential treatment if deemed appropriate by the Probation Service. File photograph: The Irish Times

The judge ordered that Colm Dowling abstain from alcohol and undergo residential treatment if deemed appropriate by the Probation Service. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

A man lit a fire outside an empty commercial unit under the belief he was helping a woman he knew with her inheritance, a court has heard.

Dubliner Colm Dowling (64) believed this woman was getting a “raw deal” by way of her inheritance and thought on the night that he might assist her by damaging the empty unit which her family owned. He told gardaí­ he had an alcohol problem and had been drinking prior to the offence.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Dowling that had not drunk alcohol for many years, but relapsed after his brother, John Dowling, was killed in Paris in 2018.

Dowling of Cypress Avenue, Brookwood, pleaded guilty to arson at Whitechurch shopping centre, Ballyboden, on July 27th, 2020. He has three previous convictions, including for harassment and minor road traffic offences.

Garda John Dalton told Noel Devitt, prosecuting, that two adjoining premises at the shopping centre were damaged by fire, a unit that had been empty for many years outside of which the fire was started and an adjoining Centra shop.

Garda Dalton said the accused man drove to the shopping centre in the early hours of the morning, poured petrol out of a can and lit a fire outside the empty unit which then spread to the Centra. Dowling was identified on close circuit television and was arrested at his home the next day.

The total damage caused by the fire was approximately €200 to the empty unit and some €2,500 to the Centra.

Dowling told gardaí­he had a problem with alcohol, had been drinking and taking medication on the date in question. He said he knew a member of the family who owned the empty unit and believed she was getting a “raw deal” by way of her inheritance. He said in his drunken state he thought he might be able to assist her by damaging the property and this would lead to any dispute regarding inheritance being resolved.

The court heard that he believes if he had not been drinking then he would not have acted in this way.

Garda Dalton agreed with Simon Matthews, defending, that his client had genuine remorse for what he had done.

Grief-stricken over brother’s death

Mr Matthews said his client had not drank alcohol since being convicted of harassment until the death of his brother in late 2018. His brother, John, was a lecturer who was stabbed to death while working in Paris. Counsel said his client had consumed eight or nine cans of Guinness on the date in question. He said his client has not drank alcohol since the offence and submitted that he would not drink again.

Mr Matthews said his client has made two donations of his own accord, one to Alcoholics Anonymous and one to the Fr Peter McVerry Trust.

Judge Elma Sheahan acknowledged Dowling’s efforts to deal with alcohol dependence and that his is in remission. She noted the traumatic effect his older brother’s death had on his “psychological make-up”.

The judge also noted the view expressed by consultants that alcohol was an accelerant in his behaviour and that he had been impulsive on the night in question. She said these facts posed a concern about his capacity to control himself when drinking.

She said the court requires further proof of his sobriety before she could dispose of the matter fairly. She placed Dowling on a 12-month probation bond and ordered the Probation Service to carry out “regular and unplanned” blood tests during the period.

The judge also ordered that Dowling abstain from alcohol and undergo residential treatment if deemed appropriate by the Probation Service.

She adjourned the matter for finalisation to April 25th, 2022