Limerick mum (44) who died from house fire burns made death bed claim that ex set her alight
A garda investigation into the incident had concluded there was no foul play that caused her death
A woman who suffered fatal burn injuries from a fire at her home four years ago told gardaí and family members before she died that she had been set alight by her former partner, an inquest has heard.
However, a sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court into the death of Martina Kiely (44) arising out of a fire at her Limerick home in the early hours of August 2, 2019, heard a garda investigation into the incident had concluded there was no foul play that caused her death.
The mother of one from Shanabooley Road, Ballynanty, Limerick, died at St James’s Hospital in Dublin on December 31, 2020 – almost 17 months after suffering severe burn injuries in the fire in an upstairs bedroom of her home.
Detective Garda Seán O’Hagan told the inquest yesterday that he was informed by Ms Kiely, when he visited her in St James’s Hospital, that her former partner, Kenneth Hynes, had sprayed a liquid on her before setting her on fire.
Det Garda O’Hagan said Ms Kiely was “very confused about events” when he saw her on February 22, 2020, and he decided she was not in a fit condition to make a statement. He explained he was subsequently unable to try and take a statement from her on another date before her death because restrictions had been imposed on hospital visits following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Det Gda O’Hagan told the coroner, Aisling Gannon, that scene-of-crime officers who had inspected Ms Kiely’s house later on the day of the fire had found nothing suspicious to report following a technical examination of the property.
The inquest heard a report by forensic scientist, Lorna Corr, of Forensic Science Ireland, who examined debris from the fire, including the victim’s clothing, had found no evidence of any accelerant at the scene.
Det Gda O’Hagan said no cause of the fire had been determined, but an electrical fault had been ruled out.
Det Gda O’Hagan said the house was undisturbed while there was evidence of alcohol consumption in the property.
“There was no evidence to suggest any criminal aspect or malicious cause or third-party involvement,” he added.
In reply to a question from the coroner, Det Garda O’Hagan said he believed he had conducted “a thorough and methodical investigation” into the fire at Ms Kiely’s home. “All the evidence points to it being an unfortunate, tragic accident,” he observed.
While the witness said he was no fire expert, he said it appeared the fire broke out in either clothing or a blanket that was wrapped around the victim who was found sitting on the floor with her back against the wall of her bedroom.
Det Gda O’Hagan said any cigarette that might have caused the incident would have been destroyed by the fire.
Addressing the coroner, the victim’s brother, Anthony Kiely, said his late sister had also made the same claim about being set on fire by Mr Hynes to her family “on her deathbed”.
Mr Kiely said she had told them Mr Hynes had set fire to her clothes and punched her.
He claimed his sister had been in an abusive relationship with Mr Hynes for 12 of the 18 years that they were together.
However, Mr Kiely said he was not her partner but “a drinking buddy”.
“Kenneth Hynes set fire to my sister as far as we are concerned,” he remarked.
Following the dramatic evidence, the coroner adjourned the hearing at the request of the victim’s family in order to address their concerns and to issue a summons to Mr Hynes to attend the inquest to give evidence about his statement to gardaí which was read out in court.
The coroner said Mr Hynes would be expected to come to the next sitting of the inquest to give evidence and there would be repercussions if he did not attend.
The coroner adjourned the hearing until March 13.
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