Woman 'confessed' to 999 she started fire

A WOMAN who set her rented accommodation alight, causing more than €39,000 damage, later admitted in phone calls to 999 emergency operators that she had started the fire deliberately.

As a result of the arson attack at Altamont Street, Westport, on May 13, 2015, Valerie Reid, with an address at 1 A Dyson Street, Blackburn, Lancashire, appeared before Judge Rory MacCabe for sentencing at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court today (Tuesday).

Reid, who has been in custody since November last, was sentenced to four years in prison with the final two years of the sentence suspended for five years.

Imposing the prison sentence, the judge said he noted the reluctance of the accused to engage with the probation service.

The judge also said there was no evidence of any effort by Reid to engage with the addiction services.

Outlining the facts of the case, Garda Denis Egan said that when gardaí investigated the fire at the property where the accused was a tenant they found evidence that fires had been lit in three places.

Following the oubreak, the garda explained, Reid had rang 999 on two occasions and admitted lighting the fires.

Reid was brought back to Ireland last year on foot of a European arrest warrant. She pleaded guilty at the Circuit Court in November to a single count of arson.

Mr. Diarmuid Connolly, BL, counsel for Reid, told the court there had been an unhappy breakdown in Ms. Reid's relationship and she had sought solace in alcohol.

Mr. Connolly pleaded for leniency, stating she was 'absolutely remorseful' and intended moving back to her mother, who is gravely ill, in the UK.

Before passing sentence, Judge MacCabe noted from the report of the probation services that the accused told them 'something clicked' inside her and she lit the fires before leaving the flat and sitting on a nearby bench while she consumed alcohol.