Man who killed friend by setting three fires in home is jailed

Man Who Killed Friend By Setting Three Fires In Home Is Jailed
Andrew James Thompson (62) died from smoke inhalation. Photo: PSNI
Share this article

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

A man who killed his friend by setting three fires at his Co Down home has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for manslaughter and arson offences.

Gary Magee (44) was told that his actions were “highly reckless” and the “senseless and cruel act” had brought pain and anguish to the family of his victim.


Magee set the fires at the home of Andrew James Thompson (62) in the Cloughoge area on the outskirts of Newry on May 21st, 2021, after they had spent the evening drinking and smoking cannabis together.

Mr Thompson, whose family attended the sentencing hearing at Newry Crown Court, died from smoke inhalation.

Magee had originally been charged with murder, but that was withdrawn when he later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and arson with intent to endanger life.



Crown court judge Madam Justice McBride told the court that on the evening of Mr Thompson’s death, a neighbour had noticed smoke coming from his small terraced bungalow.

Fire service officers found Mr Thompson unconscious on the floor in a bedroom. He was taken outside but died at the scene.


Magee was found near the back door and was taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The judge said analysis had shown there had been separate fires in the front bedroom, back bedroom and living room and accidental cause was ruled out.

During a police interview Magee had originally denied lighting the fires.

The judge said there had been no evidence of a falling-out between the two men, but they had consumed a significant amount of alcohol.


She said the defendant stated he had no memory of starting the fires.



The judge said Magee had a history of fire-starting but had no prior convictions for arson offences.

She then turned to victim impact statements provided by Mr Thompson’s siblings, partner and step-daughter.

She said: “They all express eloquently and movingly the devastating impact the cruel and needless death of the deceased has had upon their individual lives and their lives collectively as an extended family.

“They each speak about the unanswered questions surrounding the death, the heartache and grief and anguish they endure on a daily basis.

“These statements have impressed upon me that this senseless and cruel act has brought about much anguish and pain to the entire family circle.”

She said Magee, whose address was listed as Maghaberry Prison but formerly of Parkview, Cloughoge, had acted in a “highly reckless manner”.

She told him she was imposing a sentence of seven years, with half to be served in custody and half on licence.

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by