GALLERY: Family live in caravan after arsonists strike for third time in six months at former pub in Three Holes
15:27 01 April 2014
A family is appealing for help putting up a security fence around the home they planned to move to just two days after arsonists struck for the third time.
Had they moved earlier the Ingram family say their twin toddlers would have died in the blaze which quickly took hold cutting off the children’s’ bedrooms from the main bedroom with a wall of thick, black smoke.
Sara and Steve Ingram have no idea why anyone would want to target the former village pub which they bought two years ago.
The house used to be the Red Hart pub which owners Elgood’s sold to them after being granted change of use planning permission.
The planning application prompted 76 villagers to sign a petition against the scheme backed by Campaign for Real Ale members.
In a letter to Fenland District Council in 2011 protestors said the pub was a vital local amenity which provided valuable local jobs and reduced the temptation to drink and drive.
The brewery also received a letter offering to buy the pub and keep it open but permission was granted and the Ingrams bought the pub in March 2012.
For two years they stayed living at their Chatteris home and travelled to Three Holes regularly to restore the property.
Following two arson attacks - one in October last year and one in February this year, plus a burglary, they took their caravan to the back garden.
Bought to use at craft fairs around the UK to run jewellery stalls, it became the place where Mr Ingram slept for the last month in a bid to keep the property secure but in the middle of the night arsonists struck for the third time in six months.
It was only luck that a passing police patrol car saw the flames and stopped.
Mr Ingram said: “The police woke me. I suffer with sleep apnoea and the fire had fused the electrics which had cut out my breathing apparatus,”
“When I woke up I could feel I was choking – if they hadn’t woken me I would have died from the equipment failure,” said Mr Ingram, who works as a project manager at Cambridge Airport.
The two previous arson attacks were at the back of the property near the utility room, this time, however, a fire was built inside the front porch.
Mrs Ingram said: “It is not rural, we are not tucked out the way, it is on the main road in the village with homes to the side and opposite.
“We just can’t understand why we have been targeted like this.
“We planned to celebrate Mother’s Day here. It has been a labour of love -I had sourced skirting and architrave form Ireland, stained glass windows were restored, I had put hundreds of hours into stripping back the wood.
“It is heartbreaking.”
The couple are now living at the caravan with their two three year olds, Maeleigh and Matthew.
Norfolk Police are urging anyone with information to contact them.
A spokesman said: “Officers are appealing for witnesses.
“The incident took place between 1am and 2.15am on Thursday 27 March.
“Considerable damage was caused to the building.
Officers are keen to speak to anyone who believes they may have seen any suspicious behaviour in the area around this time. “
Witnesses are asked to contact PC Stewart Ledward at Downham Market Police Station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.