Northern Ireland

Mother-of-two admits setting fire to home in Lisburn

A County Antrim woman has admitted setting fire to her home while she and her two children were inside.

Aine Kennedy, 38, of Milltown Avenue, Lisburn, was remanded in custody after a judge said he needed time to consider several reports ahead of sentencing.

A neighbour rescued her and her sons aged 10 and eight after hearing a smoke alarm and her shouts for help in April 2013, Craigavon Crown Court was told.

A prosecution lawyer said she had been sniffing solvents and drinking alcohol.

Kennedy pleaded guilty to a single count of arson with intent to endanger life or being reckless as to whether the lives of her sons would be endangered.

'Total accident'

The boys had gone to bed at about 9pm, and the court was told she had no recollection of events after 9.30pm that night.

The main seat of fire was in the living room while two smaller fires were found in the kitchen and a fourth in the hallway.

She was arrested at about 1am and told police officers: "It was a total accident. I would not hurt the kids or me.''

Kennedy had a history of solvent abuse dating back 23 years, the court heard.

Investigators found 34 butane gas canisters between the living room, the kitchen and her bedroom during a search of the house.

'Full of remorse'

Although accelerants were found, investigators could not rule the possibility that butane gas had been used to start the fires, the court was told.

A defence lawyer said: "No one could more be full of remorse than herself.''

He said she had been in a troubled marriage, and her sons were being brought up by her sister and husband for the foreseeable future.

"In fact her family, who have been very supportive throughout, would not allow that to happen," he said.

The lawyer said Kennedy's "very good but stressful job" had a stabilising effect on her, but she would lose it if she was jailed.

"This is a case crying out for compassion and I would ask the court to stay its hand on imposing an immediate custodial sentence," he said.

Remanding her in custody until Thursday, the judge said he needed more time to consider a number of documents.