Husband convicted of arson attack on estranged wife’s house

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A 35-year-old father of three who set fire to the home of his estranged wife in an apparent “sad and desperate attempt” to get back with her, has been convicted of the arson.

It took the Belfast Crown Court jury just an hour and 40 minutes to unanimously convict Francis McCall of setting fire to the Grosvenor Court home in Belfast on January 24 last year, and being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

Earlier, while giving evidence on his own behalf, McCall, of Altan Grove in Dunmurry, rejected prosecution suggestions “this really is a sad case, a desperate attempt by you to secure a bigger property ... and then get back” with his wife.

The prosecution case was that McCall torched the house while pretending he’d gone back to retrieve his mobile phone, later blaming the blaze on two imagined mystery men.

During the two-and-a-half day trial prosecutor Gareth Purvis told the court that on returning to the house McCall heaped clothes in three separate bundles in the kitchen, then doused them with petrol and white spirit before setting them on fire.

Mr Purvis also claimed fire fighters later found the back door was locked, while the front door was also bolted.

It was also revealed that his former wife and children no longer live in the home, and now reside in private rented accommodation.

Judge David McFarland freed McCall on continuing bail before sentencing next month.