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23 May 2022

Serial arsonist who killed uncle in Cavan house blaze ‘was more concerned about dog’

Serial arsonist who killed uncle in Cavan  house blaze ‘was more concerned about dog’

Serial arsonist who killed uncle in Cavan house blaze ‘was more concerned about dog’

A serial arsonist who killed his uncle after setting his house ablaze in an act of revenge was more concerned about the welfare of the family dog when told a body had been discovered in the burnt-out home, a court was told on Monday. 

Daniel Murray (40) was charged with the murder of Patrick Oliver Murray on August 2, 2018, at Derrylurgan, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan after telling gardai the house “went up like a matchbox” when he set fire to some sheets with a lighter.  

He denied the murder charge when he appeared before Mr Justice Paul McDermott at the Central Criminal Court, admitting manslaughter instead. 

Murray, of no fixed abode, had also admitted arson intending to endanger then life of another, at the same date and place.   

His plea was accepted by the State at a hearing last September. 

Today, Detective Sergeant Arthur O’Connor agreed with prosecution counsel James Dwyer SC that Murray has 48 previous convictions, several of which were for arson attacks carried out at nearby properties.  

Det Sgt O’Connor also agreed the accused had been staying with his uncle at the time of this offence and was located by a neighbour at his parent’s house shortly after the blaze had been extinguished by fire crews.  

On being told his uncle had lost his in the fire, Murray, the neighbour said, didn’t appear too concerned and only asked about the welfare of the dog.    

A post-mortem later reported that Mr Murray had died from the effects of smoke inhalation. 

Det Sgt O’Connor also told the court that when the accused had returned to the scene he said that a “murder” had taken place. 

The garda agreed with Mr Dwyer that Murray had been pointing to a group of people who had gathered outside the house when he shouted: “Look at the relations, all talking and staring. Just because there has been a murder. Parasites.” 

Mr Dwyer told the court that two weeks later the accused had been discussing the fatal fire with his father, Chris Murray, when he admitted to starting the blaze. 

“He just came out and told me he did it,” the father said in a statement to gardai which was read out in court. 

“He didn’t give a reason and didn’t seem upset.” 

Det Sgt O’Connor agreed with Mr Dwyer that Murray told investigating officers he started the fire ‘to get back at Oliver for hitting granny, and for the bad things he had done to me”.  

“I wanted to take it out of the house, but it went the wrong way,” he said. 

“I knew him better than anyone else. There was a badness in him. He is better off dead.” 

Det Sgt O’Connor also agreed with Mr Dwyer that Murray also told gardai that he only wanted “to frighten” his uncle and he never meant to kill him. 

“If I could turn back time, I would. He would be here and he would be well,” the accused told gardai. 

A victim impact from the deceased’s eldest brother was also read to the court by Mr Dwyer. 

Mr Liam Murray said he had “great memories” of his brother, whom he described as “quiet but good humoured”. 

He said his brother had stayed in the family home to look after their mother after his siblings had left to raise their families. 

Although he said his brother had a “drinking problem”, he also described him as an “absolute gentleman” who would often trim their neighbours’ hedges and clear their driveways of snow.  

“There was always a bed at Oliver’s for Daniel,” Liam Murray said.  

“I keep asking myself why? Why did he do it?” 

Liam Murray also revealed the family can longer drive past the house where they once stayed because of the painful memories the property now holds.  

Defence counsel Patrick McGrath SC said Murray had “unintentionally but recklessly brought about the death of his late uncle”. 

He said it was tragic case and that his client had “never intended to cause this awful harm”. 

Although he said his client’s life had been “blighted through the years” by alcohol, this wasn’t an excuse for his behaviour but was being offered as an explanation.  

Mr McGrath said his client had accepted responsibility for his actions and that he had been drinking heavily hours before setting the house ablaze. 

Det Sgt O’Connor agreed with Mr McGrath that it was “fair to say” that the accused was a “very different man” when he was drunk.  

Mr Justice McDermott adjourned sentencing until January 25. 

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