Jail for man who burnt ex-partner's house
A Donegal man who destroyed his ex-partner's house in an arson attack has been jailed for two and a half years.
Owen Grant (44) of 447 Imlick Villas, Carrigans, set fire to the detached five-bedroom house belonging to Michelle Bradley in Carrigans in September 2009 following the end of their eight-year relationship.
Ms. Bradley was not at home when the five bedroom detached house was totally destroyed in the fire. Letterkenny Circuit Court court heard that Grant had broken into the house in the early hours of September 12th and ignited the fire in four different locations.
Grant pleaded guilty to arson at the house on September 11th, 2009 at Dunmore, Carrigans and also to assaulting Ms. Bradley at the same location on September 11th.
He changed his plea from not guilty to assault causing harm to guilty to assault on the second day of a jury trial at Letterkenny Circuit Court. He had pleaded guilty to the arson charge in October 2010.
The court heard that following the end of the relationship Grant had been entering the house while Ms. Bradley was out and had been sending her texts.
The arson attack came after Grant had assaulted Ms. Bradley the previous day when he came to the house and discovered the locks on the house, which they had shared as a couple, had been changed.
He hid in a boiler room at the rear of the house and then jumped out and surprised Ms. Bradley as she was about to enter her home.
Grant admitted assaulting her in a tussle over the keys of a BMW car which Ms. Bradley had been driving but which Grant claimed ownership over. Grant then left in the BMW and Ms. Bradley's two brothers later cuaght up with him and kept him until garda arrived. Garda told Grant the issue of the ownership of the car was one for the civil courts and ordered him to leave the car at Newtowncunningham Garda Station along with a handbag belonging to Ms. Bradley. But while the handbag was returned the car was not.
Giving evidence Sgt Pat Gaynor of Carrigans Garda Station said the following night Ms. Bradley's brother Paul received a call at 1.30am from Grant who said: "Michelle is dead, Michelle is dead." Ms. Bradley, who was not staying at home for fear of Grant, received a text from him at 2.50 am which said: "Get the fire brigade".
Grant had been staying in his father's house and took the car keys to his father's car from a bedside locker and drove to Ms. Bradley's house, just 500 metres away.
In interviews with garda Grant admitted being in the house that night but said he could not remember setting fire to it. The house was severely damaged in the fire and later had to be demolished.
Giving evidence to the court Ms. Bradley said she was still afraid of Grant because of a threat made to her life by him after the fire. She said all her possessions had been destroyed in the fire and she did not even have one photograph left.
Addressing the court Grant said he was sorry and said he would stay away from Ms. Bradley in the future.
A psychiatrist's report found that Grant had suffered from a severe depressive episode and the harmful use of alcohol. He admitted himself as a mental health patient in October 2009 for seven weeks but Judge John O'Hagan said Grant had no mental health issues that meant he was not responsible for his own acts. The judge said he was conscious of the fact that Ms. Bradley was still very afraid of Grant.
He said Grant had allowed a state of frustration and resentment to eat into him. "He was clearly mentally disturbed and needed help but that does not allow him to lose it," the judge said.
Sentencing Grant, the judge said that what was most frightening about the incident was that Grant did not know that Ms. Bradley was not in the house when he went to set fire to it.
Grant was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for arson and ordered to stay away from Michelle Bradley. The assault charge was taken into consideration.