Man accused of setting fire to Cork house with children inside

Court directs psychiatric assessment for father following apparent suicide attempt

’It’s alleged that he set fire to his own home and that he did get his children out of the burning building’

’It’s alleged that he set fire to his own home and that he did get his children out of the burning building’


A father of four accused of setting his family home on fire with his four children and himself in the building is to undergo an urgent psychiatric assessment after a judge remanded him in custody.

John Kelly (50) was charged with committing arson at the family home at Bruhenny, Churchtown, Mallow, Co Cork on December 18th when he was brought before a special sitting of Mallow District Court on Monday night.

Det Garda Patrick O’Connell gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution. He told the court he had arrested Mr Kelly at the Mercy University Hospital in Cork on December 18th and conveyed him to Mallow Garda station where he charged him. Mr Kelly made no reply to the charge.

Gardaí were opposing bail for Mr Kelly on a number of grounds, including the seriousness of the charge, the fact that his wife and family were afraid of him, and the belief he was likely to commit further offences if granted bail, he said.

Det Garda O’Connnell said the State would allege Mr Kelly - who had returned on Saturday night from the Netherlands where he is working - had set his family home at Churchtown on fire.

He said the State would allege Mr Kelly set the fire in several locations in the house while his four children - aged two, six, eight and 11 - were in the building, although he did later come down and open the front door and push the children from the burning building.

The State would allege Mr Kelly refused to leave the building, and it was his belief said Det Garda O’Connell that Mr Kelly was attempting suicide by his actions and that he only left the building when a neighbour managed to persuade him to come out.

Mr Kelly was taken to the Mercy University Hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation and was assessed by the on-call psychiatrist who deemed he was not suffering from a psychiatric condition and was fit to be discharged into the care of arresting gardaí, the court heard.

Mr Kelly’s solicitor, Cathal Lombard, said his client was anxious to get bail and was willing to give an undertaking to live with his parents in Kilbrittain in west Cork, attend the family GP in Bandon immediately, abide by a curfew and sign on daily at Bandon Garda station.

Mr Kelly was also willing to stay away from his family home in Churchtown and not approach his family. He was also willing to give an undertaking to stay out of north Cork if granted bail by the court, Mr Lombard said.

Judge Brian Sheridan said it was “a hugely traumatic event” for the family and he could appreciate the family’s anxiety as it was “understandably distressing”. He said he was reluctant to grant Mr Kelly bail without the benefit of a full and detailed medical and psychiatric assessment.

“It’s alleged that he set fire to his own home and that he did get his children out of the burning building, but to do that in the first place indicates a level of tragic disturbance . . . it doesn’t come much more dramatic that this. . . . This man needs help as much as anything else,” said Judge Sheridan.

He remanded Mr Kelly in custody to appear again at Midleton District Court on Wednesday and directed that he undergo an immediate and urgent psychiatric assessment while on remand at Cork prison so that a medical report would be available when he next appears in court.