Man jailed for five years for arson attack on family home

Father let his four children out of house after setting it alight

A 50-year-old man has been jailed for five years after he locked himself into his family home and set it alight with his four children inside as he attempted suicide when he realised his marriage was over.

The man, who can't be named to protect the identity of his children, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to arson at the family home in north Cork on December 18th last.

Det Garda Pat O’Connell said the man was working abroad and he and his wife had grown apart as a consequence and when he returned home on December 17th, she left to go visiting in Cork city.

The man rang his wife during the night and, as a result of the conversation, he went upstairs around midnight and set two fires at the family home with the couple’s four children all still in the building.


He came downstairs and unlocked the front door to let the four children out and they made their way to a neighbour’s house. The children were not physically harmed in the incident, he said.

The accused then re-entered the house and locked the building before setting a third fire downstairs but a neighbour managed to get him out through a window to safety and he was taken to hospital.

“He realised his marriage was over. He said it was a suicide attempt. He explained he never intended harming his children. In fairness, he did get them out of the house,” he said.

The fire caused €85,000 worth of damage to the house which remains unrepaired and the woman and her four children are living from week to week in accommodation provided by the HSE, he said.

A nightmare

The man’s wife told in a victim impact statement how the man’s actions in burning down their family home just days before Christmas had made life a nightmare for her and their four children.

“I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to experience a phone call from a friend saying ‘the father of your children’ has set your home on fire with your children in it,” said the woman in her statement.

“By burning down our family home, he left my children and I with nothing only the clothes on our backs – homelessness, debt, financial burdens and much distress and trauma,” she said.

The children have repeatedly said that “they don’t want to see their father and are scared of him” and she requested that the man refrain from having all contact with them.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said arson was a very serious offence on any occasion but to set fire to a building knowing there were people in it was particularly heinous.

“Whatever he wanted to do to himself and his future is one thing but that he should involve his children and his wife and destroy their home is another matter entirely,” he said.

“How he can make out he was the victim is nothing but complete bunkum. I’ve read the reports but I have no idea how he managed to get to the level where he sees himself as some sort of martyr.

“It was manic, reckless and dangerous, exposing his children to a level of danger that was frightening. It is very little comfort that he took them out when the fire was started.

“They were put through this trauma. Thankfully they suffered no damage physically but now they are without a house so you can hardly say they have not suffered,” said Judge Ó Donnabháin.

He sentenced the man to seven years but suspended the final two years on condition he remain under the supervision of the probation service upon his release.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times