Child afraid to return home

Danny Fullerton appeared at Buncrana District Court.
Danny Fullerton appeared at Buncrana District Court.

A woman this week revealed how her young granddaughter was too frightened to return to her family home after a neighbouring property was set alight in an arson attack.

Standing trial at Belfast Crown Court on two charges arising from the house fire is 25-year-old Montassar Ghadghadi.

From Clonavon Avenue in Portadown, Ghadghadi denies both the charge of arson endangering life and the ‘alternative’ charge of arson.

Ghadghadi, who was described in court as being of Tunisian nationality, is accused of setting fire to a house at Market Street Court in Tandragee on the morning of Sunday, June 9, 2013.

The jury of six men and six women were told that the damage caused to the targeted property amounted to over £60,000, while smoke damage was also caused to the adjoining house.

Following an examination, it was determined there were two seats of fire – one in the living room and one in an upstairs bedroom.

The female occupant – who rented the flat from a landlord – was not at home at the time and was described in court as a friend of Ghadghadi’s girlfriend and someone who “didn’t get on particularly well” with the accused.

Giving evidence at Tuesday’s trial was Audrey Smith, whose son and family lived in the house next door at the time of the arson attack.

Mrs Smith was babysitting her two young grandchildren when the house next door was set alight, and she revealed that her granddaughter, who was three at the time, refused to return home after the blaze and that the family “never lived there again”.

Mrs Smith said that on the morning in question she woke up after hearing banging coming from next door which she attributed to the neighbour.

She left her granddaughter and 11-month-old grandson upstairs sleeping and went downstairs.

She said: “I sat down on the sofa and just at that a policeman came in through the door and said, ‘Are there any kids in the house? You need to get out, there is a fire next door.’”

They woke the youngsters up and they were taken out onto the street as they waited for the fire service.

When Ghadghadi was arrested at his girlfriend’s house later on the morning of the fire, he denied setting fire to the property.

At hearing.