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Police hunt arsonists in Hadleigh

PUBLISHED: 00:53 01 October 2002 | UPDATED: 12:45 03 March 2010

POLICE have carried out house-to-house inquiries as they investigate a spate of arson attacks in a Suffolk town, including three in the same road.

There were 17 fires in Hadleigh, Suffolk, in the first three months of the year, while in Pykenham Way there have been three such incidents in the last month.

POLICE have carried out house-to-house inquiries as they investigate a spate of arson attacks in a Suffolk town, including three in the same road.

There were 17 fires in Hadleigh, Suffolk, in the first three months of the year, while in Pykenham Way there have been three such incidents in the last month.

In most cases, the likes of cars and wheelie bins are deliberately being torched.

Residents in the area have spoken of their fears, and police have stepped up patrols to try to tackle the problem.

Hadleigh town councillor Jim Quinlan said he had been trying to get something done about the ongoing problem – which has been experienced in the town in previous years –for some time.

When the police set up the Hadleigh Arson and Criminal Damage Working Group last year, he volunteered to represent the town council. But he resigned after the first meeting.

He said: "I passed on the concerns of the people who lived there to the committee, but when the minutes were produced nothing was mentioned."

Mr Quinlan said when he queried this he was told that his views differed from those of the rest of the committee and therefore had not been recorded.

"I thought it was to be a concerted effort to solve it and it needs that effort, but it seems to be to do with gathering Home Office statistics, not catching people. I think it's just a talking shop."

However, Mr Quinlan praised the efforts of Hadleigh's town centre beat officer, Pc Stuart Colbear, in trying to tackle the problem.

Acting Inspector Tristan Pepper, of Hadleigh police, said they were aware of the problems around Pykenham Way, in particular with nuisance problems and arson.

House-to-house inquiries have taken place at more than 100 addresses and householders are being urged to get involved with Neighbourhood Watch schemes.

He said: "The community has responded to this suggestion quite favourably and with enthusiasm. High visibility patrolling of the area is being increased by officers and the community police officer, which in turn should provide reassurance to the community."

Meanwhile, residents in Pykenham Way have spoken of their concerns. The total number of fires in that neighbourhood stands at about 14 since the start of the year.

Police have been frustrated by the lack of willingness to speak out, although they have visited more than 100 homes in connection with their arson inquiries.

One resident said: "People keep their heads down. Nobody dares say anything or do anything for fear of being targeted."

A pensioner in her 80s, who had raised her family there and lived in the same house for more than 40 years, had been a victim of arson and harassment two years previously.

She said: "We've had everything thrown at our windows, apples, oranges, eggs, both front and back doors. Our shed was burnt down two years ago and we weren't the only house. We dread weekends.

"This used to be such a lovely estate. Now my daughter tells me to lock the doors if I'm at home alone during the day. I never go out alone at night. The street lighting is absolutely disgusting."

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