Former rectory damaged by fire

CHURCH members are today hoping the sale of a derelict house may prevent potentially fatal accidents, such as the fire which injured a young girl at the weekend.

CHURCH members are today hoping the sale of a derelict house may prevent potentially fatal accidents, such as the fire which injured a young girl at the weekend.

The teenager was treated by medics for smoke inhalation after separate fires were deliberately started at the grade-II listed rectory in Whitton Church Lane, Ipswich.

Children are believed to have been playing in the building around midnight on Saturday when the blaze occurred.

Andrew Dotchin, vicar of Whitton Church, which owns the rectory, said: "It is one of the problems of a house not being used. We boarded it up as best we can and I have kept a regular eye on it, but there is no beating the inventiveness of youngsters. Anyone who did get in, broke in."

His wife, Lesley-Anne, who has found sleeping bags in the house, said she is scared to enter the property because she doesn't know who might be there.

The property has been disused for over a year since the vicar before last left. Mr Dotchin, who chose not to live there because of high maintenance costs, says the church is on the verge of selling it and believes it may end the troubles.

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Fire and police investigators examined the house after firefighters found three separates sources of fire.

They were alerted by a group of youngsters who saw smoke coming out of the building.

When they arrived at the scene, fire officers heard a voice coming from the back of the building and found a young girl running into the house, believed to be looking for her friends.

They escorted her out and she was treated by medics at the scene. No one else was found.

Paul Seager, assistant divisional fire officer, said: "There were multiple sites of fire. An armchair was set fire to and also some carpet and flooring. There were obvious signs it was a social centre."

Police would like to hear from anyone who saw or heard anything in the area between 11.30pm and midnight on Saturday. Anyone with information should call Suffolk police on 01473 613500.

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