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Police brand arson attack as "reckless and dangerous"

Father Jonathan Sibley surveys the wreckage after the midnight arson attack.
Father Jonathan Sibley surveys the wreckage after the midnight arson attack.

A midnight arson attack has destroyed an outbuilding at St Mary's Church, Long Sutton, and equipment used to stage the popular flower festival.

Police branded the senseless crime as "reckless and dangerous", and are appealing for witnesses.

The fire service was alerted at 23.59 on Sunday and soon after they arrived Father Jonathan Sibley went outside to investigate after hearing "bangs" that turned out to be timber beams exploding.

He said: "There was a lot of noise and a lot of blue lights for about three hours."

It's believed a family, including children, were asleep in a nearby flat but firefighters stopped the blaze from spreading to other buildings or to a "next door" electricity sub-station, that might have exploded.

The single-storey brick building, some 20ft long and 8ft wide, is so unstable it will have to be demolished ... and every piece of equipment inside, including trestle tables, is now useless.

Father Jonathan stayed up until 3am watching the firefighters at work, and described the arson attack on the building as "totally pointless and totally senseless".

He said locks were forced and believes some kind of accelerant was used to aid the spread of the fire.

"Somebody must have used an awful lot of force to get into that building in the first place," he said. "The hall locks were off the doors."

CCTV footage from nearby premises will aid the investigation into the cause.

Father Jonathan said the incident would have been worse if the fire had spread, particularly with the sub-station so close as it might have exploded.

He said the fire burnt an overhead electricity cable down to its metal core.

Father Jonathan believes the outbuilding dates back to the 1900s, and is "gutted" that it should be lost in this way.

The building stands on a busy thoroughfare leading to church buildings as well as the Co-op and Father Jonathan says its demolition will cause "havoc".

A police spokesman said: "We are treating this as arson and would like to appeal to anyone with information to come forward.

"Thankfully no one was injured but this was nonetheless reckless and dangerous."

Long Sutton Parish Council chairman Richard King, a former watch manager with the town's fire station, said: "The last thing we want is people setting fire to things in town ... I hope the police do everything they can to catch them."

District councillor Jack Tyrrell said: "I am pretty disgusted at people doing anything like that. We don't really have any trouble in Long Sutton - there are just idiots that let the town down.

"It could have caused a lot of damage, they could have killed somebody. Anybody who is stupid enough to light something wants to be prepared to do a lot of 'time' because one of these days you will kill somebody - you will hurt somebody one day and you will spend 20 years in prison for it."


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