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Hadleigh fires - death fears of chief

PUBLISHED: 16:12 28 May 2002 | UPDATED: 12:00 03 March 2010

FIRE chiefs are warning of a possible death if a gang of "avenging" arsonists in Hadleigh is not caught.

The warning came after the night skies were lit up again last weekend by a spate of revenge attacks in Hadleigh.

FIRE chiefs are warning of a possible death if a gang of "avenging" arsonists in Hadleigh is not caught.

The warning came after the night skies were lit up again last weekend by a spate of revenge attacks in Hadleigh.

Feuding neighbours may be behind the fires and fear of reprisals may be stopping people coming forward.

In just 48-hours, one ten-metre stretch of road was subject to four arson attacks in an area that called fire crews out six times in four days.

The Evening Star pledged £1,000 in March for information leading to the arrest of the arsonists when the number of blazes topped 17.

Two months later that figure stands at more than 25. Since January, arsonists have targeted cars, skips and wheelie-bins.

Area fire commander, Barry Cole, said: "These are tit for tat reprisals. We are greatly concerned that the level of these attacks might escalate and cause serious injury or even a fatality. You only have to look at what happened in Huddersfield (where eight people died in a house fire) to see where these feuds can end up."

Two wheelie bins were set on fire around midnight in Pykenham Way, just yards away from the torching of a ford escort van. Sunday's early morning call out was 12 hours after firefighters were called to a blazing mobile home.

And because arsonists often watch their flaming handiwork, fire fighters have been briefed to report on anyone seen at the fires.

At 2.42 on Sunday morning, crews were called back to the van in Pykenham Way after arsonists re-lit the fire after crews had put out the flames.

Barry Cole went on: "Arsonists get some sort of thrill from watching the flames."

Police are also fearful the crime, which psychologists link to sexual attacks, may belie more disturbed thrill-seeking behaviour. Inspector Lincoln Pratt said: "I believe there is a vengeful factor in these fires. I don't believe the arsons are down to one suspect. Some of the reasons behind an arson are complex."

But the blazes have left residents fearful and confused.

One recent victim said: "We don't know why it's always here – it always seems to be Pykenham Way in the news. I don't know who it could be – it can't be kids at that time of night can it?

"Are we scared? I should think so."

One of the latest bins to be destroyed was burnt down the side of a house, but the bin's owner said that she had heard nothing.

She said: "We only heard the crackling of the van burning."

Audacious firebugs, waiting in the wings, even re-lit the van after firefighters doused it.

The route in to the quiet residential area is now littered with the burnt out shells of vehicles.

Resident, Ken Morphew said: "We have a good idea who it is. We think there are half a dozen of them who are aged between 16 and 22. Three of them are in their 20s and they all come from this part of Hadleigh."

Police Sergeant Mark Lusher, said: "It's only a matter of time before someone's going to get hurt."

Anyone with information should telephone Suffolk Police on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on freephone 0800 555111.


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