Man jailed over 'deliberate and senseless' house fire that killed friend

Man jailed over 'deliberate and senseless' house fire that killed friend

A MAN who killed his friend after setting fire to his house has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Gary Anthony Magee, 44, started three fires at the Co. Down home of 62-year-old Andrew James Thompson on May 21, 2021.

At Newry Crown Court today, Magee was sentenced to seven years, with half to be served on license.

He had initially been charged with murder but pleaded guilty last October to manslaughter and committing arson recklessly to endanger life.

"Today's sentencing of Gary Magee will help to bring some closure, but it won't bring Jimmy back. Nothing will change," said Colin Thompson, the victim's brother.

'Unimaginable loss'

On the night of the incident, Magee and Mr Thompson had spent the evening drinking and smoking cannabis at the latter's home in Cloughoge on the outskirts of Newry.

At around 11.30pm, emergency services responded to reports of a fire at the property.

They found Mr Thompson unconscious in a bedroom and carried him outside but he was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

Magee, who lived locally, was found slumped inside the locked back door of the property and was taken to hospital for treatment.

The court heard Magee claimed to have no recollection of the fire and there was no evidence of a disagreement between the men.

"It's been proven that Magee had started three fires, at various locations within the house, by the direct ignition of combustible material," said Detective Chief Inspector Anthony Kelly.

"The results of a subsequent post mortem confirmed that Jimmy's death was caused by smoke inhalation."

He added: "This was a deliberate and senseless act, which has resulted in unimaginable loss.

"It leaves behind a grieving partner and loving family who remain truly heartbroken.

"My thoughts, and that of the team, are with them."


Speaking after the sentencing, Colin Thompson revealed the toll his brother's death had taken on the family.

"It's been a sad and truly difficult two-and-a-half years for us," he said.

"We've all suffered: Jimmy's partner, his friends, and the whole family."

He added: "We're left with an emptiness. We miss him every single day, and we'll continue to grieve for the loss of our brother for a long time to come."