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Witness dies in fall a month after waking to find house fire

Published: 9 Aug 2012 13:000 comments

A suspected arsonist allegedly attempted to murder a woman he was in a relationship with by setting fire to her home while she was asleep in bed, Fermanagh Court has heard.

Michael Carey, appearing at Enniskillen Court. He denies attempted
murder. <<

Michael Carey, of Carnmore Lodge, Enniskillen, emphatically denies attempting to murder Helena Kearns, setting fire to her Oaklee home on the Old Tempo Road and doing so to intimidate her as a witness in a criminal investigation.

Ms. Kearns died on June 24, a month after the incident.

A detective constable told the court a PSNI Major Investigation Team had examined the circumstances of her death and found nothing suspicious. He said that unfortunately she appeared to have taken a fall.

Objecting to Carey being released on bail, the officer told the court that on May 6, Carey was arrested on suspicion of assaulting Ms Kearns and causing criminal damage to her property. He was accused of taking a bread knife and running it across her wrist, leaving her with a wound requiring six stitches.

However, the officer pointed out that Ms Kearns was known to self-harm, adding that she and Carey appeared to have been in some form of a relationship.

He said that 19 days later, on May 25, around 3.30am, Carey called at Ms Kearns home and she let him in. He made a number of sympathetic pleas with her to drop the charges in relation to the incident earlier that month and said he would pay for the damage. She went to bed around 4.15am, leaving him lying on the sofa. At approximately 4.30am she was awakened by the smoke alarm. She went downstairs to find a fire in the sitting room in the area of the sofa. There was no sign of Carey. She went to get help.

The officer said that shortly after 6am police searched Carey's mother's home at Cavandale Park in Enniskillen and arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder and arson. He told police he had gone home with his brother at 3.30am.

Police spoke to his brother, who said he had walked him back to the house but he had walked away and he could not account for his movements after that. His mother said Carey had not come home until about half-an-hour before the police arrived at the house and arrested him.

The detective told the court there had been a number of incidents in Enniskillen that gave police concern that Carey was an habitual arsonist. He referred to an arson attack at Aisling Manor, a burglary and arson at the Ulster Farmers' Mart, a car burnt out at Windmill Heights, an arson attack on a digger and a burnt out vehicle at Cavanaleck.

He said police believed the present case was an escalation of that, setting fire to a sitting room knowing a woman was upstairs, and that Carey would continue to set fires and pose a risk to the public.

He pointed out that there were three children living in the house next door to the one set on fire at Oaklee, adding that while the witness, Ms Kearns, had died, police were seeking forensic evidence in the case.

In reply to a question by defence solicitor, Mr. Bernard Corrigan, the officer confirmed that Carey had emphatically denied involvement in the case and denied knowing Ms Kearns.

He also confirmed that Carey had never been convicted of any offence in relation to arson and had been acquitted by the court in relation to some of the incidents.

Mr. Corrigan said Carey had made the case that he was at home at the time and was not in Ms Kearns' property and was not in a relationship with her.

He submitted that Carey had a "somewhat limited" criminal record and has been in custody since the incident. He had emphatically denied any involvement in the case. It was a matter that was not going to come to court for a considerable time.

Mr. Corrigan reminded the court that there was a presumption in favour of bail and submitted that had not been rebutted by the prosecution.

However, District Judge Austin Kennedy refused to release Carey on bail on the grounds that he might interfere with witnesses, adding that while Carey had no convictions there was a "strong suspicion" he had been involved in arson in the past and there was a risk of him committing further offences. He remanded Carey in custody to appear at Fermanagh Court by video link on September 3.

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