New pictures show extent of damage caused by arsonists

By ADAM LAZZARI THESE pictures, taken this afternoon inside the club-house of March Town Bowls Club, which was hit along with Neal-Wade Community College and two houses in spree of arson attacks, show the extent of the damage caused. The Cambs Times visi

By ADAM LAZZARI

THESE pictures, taken this afternoon inside the club-house of March Town Bowls Club, which was hit along with Neal-Wade Community College and two houses in spree of arson attacks, show the extent of the damage caused.

The Cambs Times visited the club, school and two houses, on Rookswood Road, March, on Monday morning after five arson attacks were carried out in the space of three days, starting on Saturday evening.

Photographer Brian Purdy returned to the bowls club today to take this exclusive pictures inside the bowls club, off The Causeway, which suffered the most damage with the cellar, bar and social room destroyed.


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Detective Constable Rachel Pearce said: "We are investigating a series of five fires in March in the space of three days and are keeping an open mind at this time as to whether they are linked.

"We are appealing for witnesses to these incidents and would like to hear from anyone who knows who is responsible.

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"Officers have gathered initial statements today and investigations are ongoing.

"Arson attacks such as these are not only completely irresponsible but incredibly dangerous. The offenders are risking the lives of others as well as their own. It is very fortunate that no-one has been hurt."

Arsonists also targeted the home of a 93-year-old deaf pensioner who lives alone. Luckily she was not at home at the time.

Cyril Scotcher, chairman of March Town Bowls Club, said: "It looks like some people have broken into the club to steal the alcohol in there and set the place on fire to cover their tracks and destroy the evidence.

"There are track marks on the cricket field behind the club so it looks like they loaded up some barrows and made there getaway down there.

"Trophies and the honours board, which dates back to the 1970s, have been completely destroyed and these will never be replaced.

"I can only guess that some druggies were after some quick, easy money, they don't think about the amount of time and effort that people put into the club."

Former bowls club member David Hudson said: "I've heard there was a massive blaze and the fire extinguishers have been moved so it appears that the people who did this have tried to put the fire out.

"I don't know if they regretted what they had done or didn't think the fire would be so big.

"If the wind had blown the other way the nearby bungalows could have been set alight.

"There are also gas cylinders in the bar, so it could have been much worse."

Police were alerted to the fire at the bowls club at 5.33am on Monday and just over an hour later they were called to a fire at an outbuilding at Neale-Wade Community College.

The 6 x 3 metre building was used to store tables and chairs will now have to be demolished due to structural damage.

Hockey equipment, belonging to March Town Hockey Club, believed to be worth approximately �7,000, was also stored in the building and has been completely destroyed.

School principal Tim Hitch said: "We've had an assembly about this and our pupils are very angry that somebody would set fire to their school.

"We have also put security officers on site so hopefully police will be able to catch whoever did this very soon."

March Town Hockey Club chairman Adam Triggs said: "It's taken us years to raise money for this equipment and it will take years to replace it.

"We are trying to do something positive in March and I'm absolutely devastated that somebody could do this."

The arson spree started at Rookswood Road, March at 6.15pm on Saturday when a wheelie bin was set alight.

It was put out by Hayley Smith, 25, who lived at the house.

Approximately two hours later the fire service was called out after a house on the same street, in which a 93-year-old woman lives alone, was hit.

It is believed that the fire was started by somebody pushing papers through the letterbox.

The woman's house was hit again at 7.40pm on Sunday again by somebody again pushing paper through the letter box.

The woman was away visiting family and not in the house during both fires and it is believed the house has suffered minor smoke damage.

Her grandson said: "She has never hurt anybody and she will come back to see her house like this.

"She is deaf and she wouldn't have heard anything if she had been here. We're very lucky she was away."

Miss Smith said: "I've been very frightened by this. I've slept on my sofa in the living room with the blinds open so I can see if anyone is out there acting suspiciously and I've jammed my letterbox closed. We didn't have any trick or treeters so I don't think it has anything to do with that.

"I've only lived here for a few weeks and I don't deserve this."

Harry Edge, fire service operations manager for Fenland, said: "When attending a suspected deliberate fire, firefighters ensure they do everything in their power to minimise the amount of damage caused to any evidence that may still be at the scene.

"Firefighters also work in close contact with the police to ensure that this evidence is shared and that the police have the best possible case for a successful prosecution.

"We are doing all we can to educate people about the dangers of arson, but there will always be a small percentage who will go out and do it anyway.

"This is why it is so important for residents to do all they can to stop arson from happening in the first place.

"Leaving bins and flammable objects stacked up against the home or workplace can be all too tempting for a would-be arsonist.

"Don't put bins out until the last minute and at other times store them out of site, in a shed/garage, or round the back of the property."

For advice about how to prevent arson, contact your local fire station, or log onto www.cambsfire.gov.uk

Anyone with information should contact DC Pearce at Wisbech Police Station on 0345 456 456 4 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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