Teen charged over blaze which gutted Lambert Puppet Theatre

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Lambert Theatre director Liam Lambert with an original Judge puppet
Lambert Theatre director Liam Lambert with an original Judge puppet

A 16-YEAR-OLD boy has been charged with arson after a fire gutted the Lambert Puppet Theatre – home of iconic children's TV series Bosco and Wanderly Wagon.

The blaze broke out between 8pm and 8.45pm on August 28th in the theatre at Clifton Lane, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. It is estimated that €150,000 worth of damage was caused to the historic venue, which was founded in 1972 by Eugene Lambert and now run by his son Liam Lambert.

The teenager, who cannot be named because he is a minor, was refused bail when he appeared at the Dublin Children's Court yesterday/today (TUE) charged with arson and burglary.

Judge John O'Connor was told the boy allegedly broke into the theatre but started the fire after he noticed there were security cameras on the premises.

The court heard the boy was arrested at his south Co. Dublin home on Monday (SEPT 14TH) morning and he “made no reply” when the charges were put to him.

Garda Neil Doyle objected to bail citing the seriousness of the case. He told Judge O'Connor it was alleged, “the culprit entered the property, spending 45 minutes on the premises, ransacked an office and on noticing CCTV cameras the culprit started noticed two fires, causing considerable damage to the theatre and high value puppets.”

He said damage in excess of €150,000 was caused by the blaze and the offences can carry maximum sentences of 10 and 14 years.

Gda Doyle said there was strong evidence and CCTV captured the boy in the vicinity at 6.15pm in a vehicle registered to his mother. Five minutes later it stopped outside the theatre and the boy was allegedly seen on security cameras and later identified through enquiries, the court heard.

His general description and clothing matched that of the person caught on CCTV in the Lambert Puppet Theatre, the court heard.

Judge O'Connor heard that at 8.45pm, CCTV showed the suspect running from the scene. His home was subsequently searched and the type of clothing worn by the intruder was allegedly found in his bedroom. The court heard this included “distinctive footwear which gardai believe will be forensically connected to foot impressions at the scene”.

Gda Doyle agreed with defence solicitor Aenghus McCarthy that while the boy has admitted abusing cannabis and prescription tablets, he is not an addict.

He also agreed with the solicitor that the boy does not have a history of failing to attend court and there was no evidence “that he will be doing a runner, flee the country”.

Mr McCarthy asked the court to grant bail to the boy, who was accompanied to court by his mother and an older sister. He said the teenager would abide by any bail terms.

The solicitor also said the case would be contested and there was no forensic evidence linking the boy to the scene.

Judge O'Connor noted the youth has medical problems but he refused bail due to the seriousness of the case, meaning the teen's lawyers will have to bring an application to the High Court to get him released pending trial.

Dressed in a grey and blue tracksuit and runners, the boy remained silent throughout the hearing and his mother left the court in tears as he was remanded in custody to appear again next week.

Directions from the DPP are being sought and a decision has yet to be made on whether the case will stay in the juvenile court or be dealt with a circuit court level which has wider sentencing powers.