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Bail refused Man appears in court accused of starting hostel fire that injured seven people

He is charged with criminal damage and endangerment at the De Paul Hostel, Little Britain Street, in Dublin city centre

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Six units of Dublin Fire Brigade attended the fire. Photo: Damien Storan.

Six units of Dublin Fire Brigade attended the fire. Photo: Damien Storan.

Six units of Dublin Fire Brigade attended the fire. Photo: Damien Storan.

A suspected arsonist has been charged over a blaze at a Dublin hostel that left seven people hospitalised, with one woman in an induced coma and in danger of losing her sight.

Keith Riggs (38) is alleged to have started fires in two bathrooms, the flames spreading and injuring residents as well as causing €200,000 worth of damage, a court heard.

Judge Treasa Kelly refused to grant Mr Riggs bail and remanded him in custody to later this week.

He is charged with criminal damage and endangerment at the De Paul Hostel, Little Britain Street, in the city centre, where he was a resident last Saturday.

Garda Conor Whelan told Dublin District Court the accused made no reply when charged after caution at the Bridewell station yesterday.

Objecting to bail, he said it was alleged the accused went into the hostel at 5.45pm on March 26 and set fire to two different locations - ground floor and second floor bathrooms.

According to the garda, Mr Riggs entered the first bathroom, was inside it for several minutes and a large amount of smoke was then seen coming from it.

It was alleged the accused fled to the second floor, where again he went into a bathroom, with a large amount of smoke then seen coming out.

Units of the fire brigade attended the scene to tackle the fire and seven people were taken to St James’s Hospital. One woman was in a critical condition and was placed in an induced coma.

She had suffered burns to her face, airways, hands and eyes and there was a high possibility she will not be able to see after this, the garda said.

The cost of the damage was €200,000 and residents now had to be housed in alternative accommodation.

Citing the strength of the proposed evidence, he said there was “excellent” CCTV footage in which the accused was clearly identified entering both bathrooms where the fires started.

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When he presented himself at the garda station, his clothing appeared burned and damaged by smoke and he had black marks to his face and hands consistent with being in very close proximity to a fire.

Applying for bail, defence solicitor Lorraine Stephens said the accused could be ordered to stay away from any witnesses under bail conditions.

Mr Riggs was presumed innocent and had handed himself in to the gardai, she said.

“That is not somebody who is trying to evade justice,” Ms Stephens said.

Mr Riggs could live at his family home at Deanstown Avenue, Finglas, if granted bail. The accused, who has schizophrenia, would also undertake to attend a mental health facility.

He was not a man of means, was on social welfare and “didn’t even have a cigarette” when he was arrested, Ms Stephens said.

Judge Kelly said she was satisfied it was necessary to refuse bail. She remanded the accused in custody to Cloverhill District Court on Friday. She directed any medical attention required while the accused is in custody.

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