A YOUTH set fire to a random house because he was “pissed off” and annoyed after having an argument with his mother, a court has heard.
Ryan Whelan, aged 20, of Beechwood Drive, Ballingarry pleaded guilty, at Limerick Circuit Court, to a charge of arson relating to a fire at Lisamote, Ballingarry more than two years ago. Over €189,000 worth of damage was caused to the house
During a sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Jerry O’Sullivan of Newcastle West garda station said the alarm was raised shortly before 5pm on March 25, 2011 when a neighbour saw flames and smoke at the house, which is located around three miles outside Ballingarry village.
He said three units of the fire service from Rathkeale and one from Newcastle West attended the scene of the fire for more than two-and-a-half hours. “The house was completely destroyed, it was gutted,” he said.
A number of neighbours who attended the scene of the fire reported seeing a youth in the vicinity who was later identified as the accused man.
After setting fire to the house, Whelan went to a nearby farm where he asked for directions before getting a life home.
Det Garda O’Sullivan said the house was technically examined but that there was no forensic evidence linking Whelan to the fire .
However, he told the court he made admissions a number of months later when he was arrested in relation to separate matters.
Judge Carroll Moran was told that earlier on the day of the fire, Whelan had a row with his mother as they were travelling into the Crescent Shopping Centre in Limerick city.
The defendant got out of the car and as he was making his way home, came across the house, went inside and set a mattress and couch on fire using a cigarette lighter.
Whelan, who was aged 17 at the time of the offence, told investigating gardai he was off his head on tablets and was in a bad mood because his mother had pissed him off.
Det Garda O’Sullivan said the owner of the house had been renovating it in order to rent it out. The court heard there was no animosity between the defendant and the owner of the house and that there was no reason for him to set the house on fire.
“It was a random act on a random house,” said Michael Collins BL, prosecuting.
Mark Nicholas BL, defending, said it was a dreadful crime but he said there was no question of anybody being in the house at the time of the fire.
In mitigation, he submitted that his client’s admissions in the case were very significant as was his guilty plea.
In her victim impact statement, the owner of the house said the property, which had been in her family for more than 70 years, was of huge sentimental value and that the fire had caused her and her family a huge amount of stress afterwards.
Judge Carroll Moran said the consequences of Whelan’s actions had been enormous.
He said he needed time to consider the appropriate sentence and he remanded Whelan in custody until September 24, next.