Latest: Man remanded in custody over Magherafelt house fire

Magherafelt Court
Magherafelt Court

A Magherafelt man appeared in court today on charges arising out of a fire in the Sandymount area of the town last Friday which caused extensive damage to a house.

John Paul Henry, 35, from Sandymount, faces charges of arson, assaulting a woman, making a threat to the woman that he would damage property and damaging a front door.

Opposing a bail application, a police investigator told the court that she believed they could connect the accused with the charges.

She said on December 4 police were called to a report of a serious fire at a semi-detached property at Sandymount where they found three fire appliances in attendance.

The officer alleged the defendant had been involved in an on-off relationship with a 19-year-old woman who lived at the property.

She said the injured party claimed she had earlier received abusive phone calls from the accused who later called at the property demanding his belongings.

The officer alleged the woman was assaulted as she left the property to go and stay with a friend. When she returned around 4am the back of the house was on fire and she managed to get into the property to get her dog, the investigator continued.

When interviewed at Dungannon police station about the incident, Henry denied all the offences and gave an alibi that he had been at an ex-partner’s house telling police the allegations were “a whole load of shit.”

Pleading with the court to grant bail, a defence barrister stressed there was no forensic evidence at this time to connect Henry to the fire. He said the defendant denied all the offences including making the phone calls.

The lawyer admitted Henry had a record of violent offences but they were not of a domestic nature, and there was no history of bail breaches.

“He has a lady witness who is prepared to say he was elsewhere at the time,” said the lawyer. “He is entitled to the presumption of innocence and the presumption of bail at this stage until we know the cause of the fire.”

The lawyer added that Henry had an address in Ballymoney to go to if the court granted bail.

Refusing bail, District Judge Alan White said there was a serious risk of further offending. “In my view there is a serious risk to the injured party,” he said.

Mr White remanded Henry in custody to appear by video link in Magherafelt Magistrates Court on January 6.