A judge has jailed a man for 13 years for burning to death a five-year-old girl who suffered unimaginable “depths of terror” in her final moments.
John Lynch, 34, originally from Sligo and with an address in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, was jailed on Tuesday for manslaughter, arson and causing serious harm to the girl’s father. He admitted the three charges.
Five-year-old Mari Keane-Connolly from Termon Road in Boyle died in the early hours of October 3 last year.
Roscommon Circuit Court heard how Lynch set fire to the house in a bid to exact revenge on an uncle of the deceased child, John “Boy” Connolly, who he had found lying on a bed, fully clothed, with his girlfriend Anita O’Hara, following a house party last August.
Lynch, who was described by Judge Anthony Hunt as being “violent, with an angry disposition,” tried to assault Connolly in a nightclub on October 2. He had been celebrating his birthday with an alcohol and cocaine binge.
He was still angry when he went home with Anita O’Hara and assaulted her, using a steel curtain pole to beat her, breaking her jaw and inflicting other injuries. He then drove to the house at Termon Road, which belonged to John Connolly's brother Richard.
John Connolly, who had been staying at the house, was not there and the front door had been left open for him. Lynch entered the house and set it on fire at about 2:30 a.m.
Richard Connolly was asleep upstairs. His three daughters, eight-year-old Lauren, seven-year-old Naomi and little Mari, were staying with him as his ex-partner Teresa Keane was in hospital giving birth to twins that weekend.
The court heard how he managed to get the children out on to a roof but that he suffered serious spinal injuries when he jumped to the ground and landed on concrete steps. He managed to persuade Lauren and Naomi to jump on top of him but Mari was too afraid and went back inside the house. Her body was found shortly after 5 a.m.
Judge Hunt said that the child was conscious and aware of what was happening before she died in the fire. He said, “The depths of terror in her final moments defy imagination.”
He dismissed Lynch’s claim that he did not know anyone was in the house.