Arson anger

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Arson anger thumbnailThe forensics team at the site of the arson on Monday

A RESPECTED Rathfriland businessman says he is relieved no-one was injured after a suspected arson attack on his property.

The fire was started late on Saturday evening (18 February) in the second floor of the three storey former church manse in the Newry Street area of Rathfriland.

It is understood a neighbour close to the property raised the alarm.

Fire crews from Rathfriland and Newry attended the incident for nearly two hours and smoke damage was caused to the property as a result of the deliberate blaze.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said the end terrace house was unoccupied as it was under renovation and smoke alarms had not yet been fitted.

Well-known local businessman, Brian McConville, owner of the property had been carrying out renovations to the house for the last couple of months.

The same building hit headlines in April 2014 after a major cannabis factory worth 500,000 was uncovered inside.

Mr McConville, who owns MJM Group based at Carnbane Business Park in Newry, was not the owner of the Newry Street property at the time of the drugs raid nearly three years ago.

Mr McConville, who also owns a number of other residential properties in Rathfriland, said he is disappointed by what has happened.

“You try to do your best for the local community and when your property is burnt deliberately it is very disappointing and of course I am angry by what has happened."

He had recently been carrying out extensive repairs as a result of the damages caused to the interior of the building.

Mr McConville said: "I have had workmen in the property for the last couple of months getting the house ready to be rented again. It had been cleaned inside and we were ready to put new furniture in.

“However, I got a call on Saturday evening around 11.30pm from my daughter to say that the house was on fire and that there were fire engines outside."

Mr McConville, who also owns a number of other residential properties in Rathfriland, said he is disappointed by what has happened.

“We were waiting on the electricity to be reconnected and as soon as it was reconnected the property was ready to be rented again," he added.

Mr McConville said he was relieved no-one was injured, adding: "Of course there was relief that there was nobody in the house at the time. However, my big concern was the elderly neighbours next door that they were okay."

Mr McConville, who entered the property for the first time yesterday (Monday) after the blaze along with a forensics officer could not yet estimate the cost of damage to his property.

Meanwhile, the PSNI who also attended the blaze confirmed the cause of the fire is currently under investigation.


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