Nightclub arson attack in Derry may be linked to homophobia

An arson attack on a nightclub in Derry may have been motivated by homophobia, a court has heard.

arson attack Derry

Sebastian Szczap (21), a resident of Kular Court in Sackville Street, Derry, has been officially charged with an arson attack on the Envy nightclub which occurred on January 9, 2019.

The alarm was raised at 7pm that day as flames engulfed the LGBT+ space. All surrounding properties were promptly evacuated.

According to the District Judge, a man wearing a hat was shown on CCTV entering the nightclub through a rear door shortly before the fire was discovered. The man disposed of the hat, which was later uncovered by the PSNI. DNA extracted from the hat matched that of the defendant, and clothes found in his accommodation matched the clothes worn by the accused in the CCTV footage.

A member of the PSNI warned District Judge Ted Magill that homophobia may have played a hand in the perpetrator’s crime. Envy nightclub, where the attack took place, was known for being an LGBT+ friendly venue which welcomed the queer community and its allies.

A defence lawyer said that there is no evidence for this link.

The fire caused £250,000 (roughly €269,244.39) worth of damage. The Derry nightclub has remained closed since the arson attack, but have announced the intent of reopening in the future, saying they are “currently in the process of obtaining the necessary licensing and hope to be up and running again soon.”

The police officer who suggested the link to homophobia has opposed bail for the defendant, citing the belief that Szczap would return to his native Poland to avoid a long custodial sentence if convicted of arson.

A defence barrister replied by saying that Szczap has lived in Derry with his mother and sister for the last four years.

District Judge Magill denied Szczap bail, saying the defendant had twice failed to attend court. He is also taking the PSNI’s objections into consideration.

Szczap was remanded in custody until April 16.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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