Portadown man accused of setting fire to house

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A grandmother babysitting her two young grandchildren, aged three and 11 months, had to be evacuated from her son’s home after the house next door was targeted by an arsonist, a court has heard.

On trial at Newry Crown Court denying breaking in and setting fire to a semi-detached house in Market Street Court, Tandragee, is 25-year-old Montassar Ghadghadi.

Ghadghadi, from Clonavon Avenue, Portadown, is accused of two charges of destroying property by arson on June 9, 2013, including being reckless as to whether the life of another would be endangered, or alternatively reckless the house would be destroyed.

Prosecution lawyer Fiona O’Kane told Judge Kevin Finnegan and the jury that a man allegedly seen breaking into the house by witnesses, shortly before the fire, was Ghadghadi, and “effectively” it was her case he set fire to the house.

The lawyer said that shortly after 9am that morning the alarm was raised after smoke was seen coming from the building.

The property was rented out to a woman, away at the time, who was a friend of Ghadghadi’s girlfriend.

Ms O’Kane said the court would also hear how the house next door had to be evacuated. Inside was grandmother Audrey Smyth and her two young grandchildren, and she would tell the court how the alarm was raised and how she and the children had to leave.

In all £50,000 damage was caused to the house, with substantial smoke damage to the home next door which had to be evacuated.

Ms O’Kane said that subsequent investigation indicated that there had been more than one seat of fire and “in fact there were fires started both upstairs and downstairs”.

Ghadghadi was arrested later that same day and police recovered clothing from a washing machine and a pair of shoes which were forensically examined. Traces of glass found on the shoes allegedly matched that from a glass door in the house.

During interview Ghadghadi denied having anything to do with the arson attack, maintaining he had been in his girlfriend’s home from 2am that day, and that he “did not do this”. The trial, expected to last up to a fortnight.