‘It is arson but it could be murder’

Conifers damaged by fire on Babbacombe Way, Hucknall.
Conifers damaged by fire on Babbacombe Way, Hucknall.

DISABLED pensioners are the latest in a long line of victims falling prey to a garden arsonist in Hucknall.

In the past 12 months alone, 30 different garden related incidents have been recorded by Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue, most of which are believed to have been started deliberately.

Now residents and councillors are saying enough is enough and calling on the police to stop these fire-starters before someone is killed.

“Residents are living in fear that the next time they go to bed, their property could become the next target of this arsonist,” said Coun Chris Baron for Hucknall West, where most of the fires are occurring.

“At the end of the day it is arson but soon it could become murder.”

The most recent fires happened overnight on Friday 4th January on Babbacombe Way. A bungalow, belonging to pensioners Audrey and Derek Derbyshire and another house, both fell victim and conifers were once again the target.

One hedge led to an electrical sub-station, and it is feared it could have proved a volatile situation had the fire brigade not been on the scene as fast as they were.

“I was going to bed about 10pm when I saw an orange glow as I closed the curtains,” said 73 year-old Audrey who is registered blind. “I thought it was a street cleaner going by or something but called Derek who realised it was a fire.”

Half the expanse of conifer hedging has been destroyed in the blaze but thanks to passers-by who spotted the blaze and called the fire brigade, it was caught early and prevented from spreading to the bungalow.

“A lady and her son called the fire brigade and ran round to see if we were ok,” added Audrey who has lived in Hucknall all her life. “It was very frightening. I was shaking like a leaf as I went into the conservatory and could feel the heat.

Derek, who is also disabled, was fearful it would spread.

He said: “The conifers went up like Roman candles and I was worried the fire would spread to my shed and the sub-station.We are just grateful the fire brigade arrived quickly.

“It has made a mess of the hedge and a quote to replace the trees with plants of the same density and height is estimated to cost around £200 each.”

The topic was discussed at the Hucknall West Safer Neighbourhood Committee meeting held on Tuesday night where community representatives, councillors and local police officers where in attendance.

Coun Baron added: “The situation is getting out of hand but I appreciate it is a difficult job for the police to catch this mindless individual - but catch them they will.”

“The beat officers, PCSOs and Ashfield Neighbourhood Wardens are all working together to tackle this problem,” explained Coun Baron. “We are all singing from the same hymn sheet and are acting towards a solution.

“They are carrying out patrols in the area in a bid to catch the arsonist in the act.”

Police also moved to reassure residents that they are being proactive in investigating these incidents and working towards catching the culprit.

Sgt Simon Scales, of Ashfield South’s Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “Extensive enquiries have been carried out in response to these incidents and anyone with information about them should call local officers.

“We work closely with the fire service and take all reports of arson very seriously. I would encourage anyone to report suspicious activity to police or raise any concerns with the local beat team on 101.”

The fire service are also ‘keeping a watchful eye’ on the situation.

“There were more incidents than usual of this type last year and it had died down a little before these recent fires in the new year,” said a fire service spokesman.

If anyone has any information about these arson attacks, contact Nottinghamshire Police on 101 or free and in confidence with Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.