Arson suspected in Suffolk fires

PUBLISHED: 20:30 15 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:55 03 March 2010

PRE-TEEN firebugs are believed to be behind a primary school arson attack that caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and saw an entire building lost to flames.

PRE-TEEN firebugs are believed to be behind a primary school arson attack that caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and saw an entire building lost to flames.

Police were today speaking to pupils at Handford Hall Primary school after fire broke out last night in the school's former nursery.

This morning, youngsters at the 250-pupil school played alongside the stinking embers, cordoned off by police barriers.

The attack was one of a series of deliberately-started fires, including a waste chute in a two-storey block of flats in St Matthews Street.

Firefighters were called to the Gatacre Road primary school blaze at the school's former classroom annex at just before 9pm.

It took two engines just over half an hour to douse the flames at the portable building, now used for storage.

Head teacher Richard Cove said: "Fire officers believe there was evidence that the fire was started deliberately."

He was not able to estimate the cost of the damage before the arrival of local education authority loss adjusters expected today.

A window at the back of the portable building had been wrenched open, he added.

Police spokeswoman Lisa Wilson said: "We have reports of two 11 to 12 year olds seen in the area at the time who may or may not be involved in the fire." She confirmed police were treating the fire as suspicious.

School caretaker Drina Deeks said: "We won't be able to replace the building. The cost and the damage will be horrendous. It was essential storage space for tables and furniture that we need for additional pupils."

She denied that the school, which has fallen prey to minor break-ins in the past, required more security.

She said: "It's a school, not a prison. We already have high fences, security lights and an alarm system linked to the police in Martlesham."

But Mr Cove said the school's position, exposed at the rear to Yarmouth Road, made it vulnerable to trespasses.

Anyone who may have witnessed the arson or has any information are urged to call PC Michael Hayton on 01473 613500.

Firefighters were called to the playing field in The Street, Wetherden, near Stowmarket, at 7.23pm yesterday, where a cricket shed was ablaze.

The fire took about an hour to bring under control but by that time the 10m by 5m shed was completely destroyed.

Wetherden Parish Council chairman Christopher Batten was alerted to the fire shortly after it started.

This morning he said: "As far as I'm aware the old playing field pavilion has been completely burned down, in fact the fire crew last night made sure there was nothing left.

"It was used for storing things to do with the playing field, like the football pitch line markers. We won't be absolutely certain until I've spoken to the secretary of the football club though."

Mr Batten would not speculate about how the fire started and said the fire would be on the agenda at tonight's parish council meeting.

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