Man charged for burning down historic church, endangering nuns

A man has been sentenced to more than five-years in prison for starting a fire that destroyed the historic St. Simon’s parish church in Glasgow. The 2021 fire leveled the building and endangered a nun who was asleep in an adjoining building. 

Arson

According to BBC, Ryan Haggerty admitted to setting the fire on July 28, 2021. Haggerty, who was 26 years old at the time of the fire, was seen covered in soot by onlookers at the scene of the crime. About a month after the fire, investigators zeroed in on Haggerty and made the arrest. 

The fire took the 19th-century building down to its foundation, leaving it irreparable, but the High Court in Glasgow noted that the damages would have cost “several millions” of pounds to fix. The court was especially displeased, however, with how the fire endangered a 79-year-old nun. 

Endangerment

Sister Mary Ross was reportedly asleep in the rectory next door when the fire was started. Sr. Ross awoke to the smell of smoke and was able to make it out with the assistance of the fire crew. When she did collapse, however, it was not due to smoke inhalation, but from shock over the destruction of the church. 

STV News reports that Judge Lord Mulholland told Haggerty that he was lucky he was not facing a murder charge. In his ruling the judge commented: 

“The church you set fire to was clearly an integral place of worship for people who needed it most. If it is able to be re-built it would cost millions. You put the life of a 79-year-old nun who was sleeping there at risk and it is fortunate you are not facing the crime of murder.” 

Sentence

Mulholland went on to explain that he felt an “extended sentence” was appropriate due to Haggerty’s history of “willful fire raising.” He will now serve a sentence of five years and three months in prison, with a five-year probation after his release

For his part, Haggerty said he had no idea Sr. Ross was in the vicinity and that it was never his intention to put her in danger. His attorney said: 

“[Haggerty] expresses his remorse and shame for his conduct and he shows no ill will or grudge towards the Catholic Church and recognizes the significant financial impact of his actions.”

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