Man (36) jailed for setting fire to home of murder inquiry detective

Richard Bourke said he was ‘off his face’ at time of incident which left ‘indelible scar’ on family

Richard Bourke  pleaded guilty to two counts of arson at two locations in Finglas. Photograph: Ronan Quinlan/Collins

Richard Bourke pleaded guilty to two counts of arson at two locations in Finglas. Photograph: Ronan Quinlan/Collins

 

A man who set fire to the house of a detective involved in charging him with murder 20 years ago has been jailed for eight years.

Richard Bourke was “off his face” on alcohol and drugs when he lit a small fire at the front door of Det Garda John Griffin’s house in Finglas before returning to throw petrol on it, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Det Garda Griffin’s wife woke up to the sound of their fire alarm at 3am before the couple noticed smoke billowing into the hall.

The arson attack left an “indelible scar” on the family, the court heard.

Bourke (36), of Sycamore Park, Finglas, pleaded guilty to two counts of arson at two locations in Finglas on February 26th, 2019.

When asked why he set the fire, he said the detective “had him up on a murder charge” and he was “over it” but on the night in question it was “like a f*** you” to Det Garda Griffin. He said he had no intention of hurting anyone.

Judge Patricia Ryan said there had been an element of premeditation. She noted that the arson was carried out at night and that Bourke knew the house was occupied. She set a headline sentence of 11 years and suspended the final three years, taking into account mitigating factors.

Acquitted

At a previous hearing, Insp Gavin Ross told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that Bourke lived in the same area as Det Garda Griffin, who was involved in an investigation that led to Bourke being charged with murder about 20 years ago. He was later acquitted.

On the night in question, Bourke drove to Det Gda Griffin’s house and lit a small flame. When it did not take, he returned with a can of petrol and threw it on the flame which had a “fireball effect”, Insp Ross said.

Upon waking, the Griffins called 999 before managing to extinguish the flames. They noticed a man in a car peering at them who then drove away but they did not recognise him. Their front door had to be replaced and the hall suffered smoke damage, the court heard.

In a victim impact statement read out by counsel, Det Garda Griffin said the attack had “left an indelible scar”.

“I feel violated,” he said.

‘Fortress’

Det Garda Griffin said he loved his house, which was where he and his wife had raised their three children.

“My family home has now been turned into a fortress,” he said, adding that a number of security measures had since been put in place. “Simple things like talking to our neighbours over the garden wall are gone.”

He said the attack happened “because of my occupation. It really hurts me that my family suffered because of my occupation”. He said he considered taking early retirement from the force, but instead removed himself from front line duties to alleviate his wife’s worries about further attacks.

The court heard Det Garda Griffin was recovering from a knee operation at the time of the incident, but slipped on a step while trying to put out the fire, setting his recovery back by two months.

“I feel no bitterness towards Richard Bourke,” he said. “I just want him to understand how my family suffered because of his actions.”