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FATAL BLAZE Arsonist who killed disabled grandmother says she will live with it 'for the rest of her life'

Nicola Kavanagh (33) spent the last five years in the women’s prison in the Mountjoy campus after being convicted in May 2016 of arson and the manslaughter of Eva Berrill (73)

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Nicola Kavanagh lit paper and set fire to the curtains.

Nicola Kavanagh lit paper and set fire to the curtains.

Nicola Kavanagh lit paper and set fire to the curtains.

An arsonist who set fire to a house causing the death of a disabled grandmother has said she will have to live with her actions “for the rest of her life”.

Nicola Kavanagh (33) spent the last five years in the women’s prison in the Mountjoy campus after being convicted in May 2016 of arson and the manslaughter of Eva Berrill (73).

Formerly of Rathmullen Park, Drogheda, Kavanagh admitted the manslaughter of the pensioner in August 2014.

She also pleaded guilty to the arson of the Berrill family home on the Cord Road, Drogheda, Co Louth.

Kavanagh was released from prison and returned to Co Louth in March.

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Kavanagh was convicted of arson and manslaughter.

Kavanagh was convicted of arson and manslaughter.

Kavanagh was convicted of arson and manslaughter.

 

Contacted by the Sunday World this week, Kavanagh told us: “I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

“I think about that poor woman every day and every night.

“I’m sorry more than anyone will ever know.

“I never meant to do that.

“I’ll have to live with the pain for the rest of my life for that poor woman and their family.”

The Central Criminal Court heard Mrs Berrill, who was once a well-known and popular singer, had been paralysed and needed a wheelchair after a stroke in 2002.

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She died in the burns unit of St James’s Hospital in Dublin, 96 days after the fire.

Mrs Berrill had burns to 12 per cent of her body and was not strong enough to tolerate surgery.

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Oliver and Eva Berrill, who was asleep when her room went up in flames

Oliver and Eva Berrill, who was asleep when her room went up in flames

Oliver and Eva Berrill, who was asleep when her room went up in flames

 

Senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Pat Marry, said that CCTV captured Kavanagh setting fire to the net curtains in the downstairs bedroom that Mrs Berrill slept in at about 12.50am on August 16, 2014.

The court heard it was a warm summer’s night and the window had been left open.

Det Inspector Marry said Kavanagh could be “clearly seen” lighting paper and putting it in the open window.

This paper went out and she had lit a second piece of paper which catches the net curtain.

“You can see the flames on CCTV,” he told Judge O’Shea.

Kavanagh and three men in her company walked past the house again at which point it is obvious the fire had taken hold, he added.

A member of the public raised the alarm and ran across the road to McDonnell’s public house where Mr Oliver Berrill, Eva’s husband, was inside.

He had, the court heard, checked on Eva just a short time earlier.

Judge O’Shea also praised the actions of Colin Carter, who had “fearlessly and courageously put his life at risk” by going into the house and dragging Mrs Berrill out of her room and on to the street.

Kavanagh’s defence barrister said setting the fire was “a random act,” and there was no premeditation.

He said she never set out to hurt anyone and she will live with regret for the rest of her life.

She was truly sorry and truly ashamed and “never intended any of this to happen,” Mr Roderick O’Hanlon added.

He said she hoped that one day in the future the Berrill family can forgive her and then she can forgive herself.

Kavanagh had been born into a ‘catastrophically poor family situation,’ where her mother was an alcoholic and her father left when she was young, Mr O’Hanlon said.

Kavanagh had a chronic alcohol and drug problem and had also been on Xanax and pain medication at the time.

In a victim impact statement, read by their son Des, Oliver Berrill described how he was his wife’s main carer.

“I spent my time looking after her. I did this with love, love for my wife, love for the mother of my children and was happy to continue doing this until the day God called her home.”

“On the night Nicola Kavanagh lit a fire in our home, Eva was on her own in her bed.

“This was not the end that anyone would want for their loved one and certainly not how I imagined myself and Eva would be separated.”

Mr Berrill also said: “I wanted to care for her until she ended her days naturally. Nicola Kavanagh has taken that from me.”

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Kavanagh says she regrets her actions.

Kavanagh says she regrets her actions.

Kavanagh says she regrets her actions.

He said Mrs Berrill’s family had visited her every day in hospital and watched her suffer. “We suffered too. We lived in hope she would pull through and return home to her family where she belonged.”

He said Eva was “the heart of our family. We miss her every day and we are angry that her end came too early at the hands of Nicola Kavanagh.

“We cannot forgive Nicola Kavanagh for what she has done. She has broken up our family, we can never again be together, she has inflicted a terrible pain on our family.”

Judge O’Shea said the consequences of Kavanagh’s actions were ‘catastrophic’ for the Berrill family. He accepted she did not intend to go out and unlawfully kill Eva Berrill but he said she was ‘reckless in the extreme’.

She did not care that people could be living or sleeping in the house, he added.

He imposed 12 years for each offence, the sentences to run concurrently and he suspected the last four years of each on her entering into a good behaviour bond for four years on her release from prison.

As a result of 25 per cent remission being applied to Kavanagh’s sentence, she was released from custody in March and returned to Louth.

A relative of Eva Berrill’s this week told the Sunday World he did not wish to comment in relation to Kavanagh’s release from prison.

However, he did say he wanted to thank the people of Cord Road, where his mother lived, and the wider community of Drogheda for their support in the aftermath of Eva’s death.

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