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Couple look to future after blaze

PUBLISHED: 09:42 16 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:39 03 July 2010

Last year it was a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons for Norwich restaurateurs Martin Jamieson and Sheila Jones.

As they acted the perfect hosts throughout the party season at their Mambo Jambo Mexican restaurant, they had to hide behind their smiles the painful truth they had lost everything in a devastating house fire three days before Christmas.

Last year it was a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons for Norwich restaurateurs Martin Jamieson and Sheila Jones.

As they acted the perfect hosts throughout the party season at their Mambo Jambo Mexican restaurant, they had to hide behind their smiles the painful truth they had lost everything in a devastating house fire three days before Christmas.

Still only just settling back into their four-bedroom detached home on the edge of Cantley after an agonising wait of months for it to be rebuilt, almost from top to bottom, the couple will today be able to relive the painful drama as it unfolds on the BBC2 series Crisis, Claims and Cons.

The programme, which begins at 2.15pm, traces the progress of the insurance claim by Lloyds TSB from the identification of charred belongings through to the daunting task of rebuilding their dream house.

Ms Jones, 42, said: “After the fire we received a phone call from the programme makers. They wanted to follow the putting back together of the property. After all the insurance horror stories following the floods a couple of years back, I guess they wanted to show a positive side.”

She still vividly recalls her partner opening the loft hatch to investigate a noise at 5am on December 22 and finding the entire roof space on fire.

“We dashed over to neighbours who suggested we should go back and close the loft hatch to stop the blaze spreading. But even though only a couple of minutes had gone by, the flames had already advanced to the bedroom. I dread to think what would have happened if Martin had not woken up,” she said.

All their Christmas presents, including sweets and biscuits made and wrapped by Ms Jones the day before, were destroyed in the inferno which destroyed the roof and first floor and left the ground floor wrecked by smoke and water.

She said: “We lost everything. In the loft were boxes with things the children had made when they were little and cards we had sent to each other over the years.

“The insurance company put us up in the luxury of Dunston Hall for Christmas, which many people might think was great - but not when you arrive without a hairbrush, toothbrush or even underwear.

“Everyone else was dashing around doing last-minute Christmas shopping and we were out buying essentials.”

Ms Jones still retains harrowing images on her mobile phone as a reminder of what they found when they went back to inspect their house a week later.

“We had to be here to identify all the charred items, from cameras to burnt clothes, for the insurance claim. It all filled five skips by the end,” she said.

“We were at Dunston Hall for 40 nights and because we were in a room rather than a suite, Martin's 14-year-old son Elliot was unable to come and stay. I did not have any time with my children, Ben, 21, and Robyn, 18, either.”

Life took an upward turn when they moved into a rented house in the city's Pottergate and were able to be reunited with their two dogs, a boxer and a mastiff.

Mr Jamieson, 43, who visited the house in Oak Tree Close every day to oversee the building work, said the insurance company had been “fantastic”.

“We could ring the senior claims officer whenever we wanted,” he said.

Relieved now to be back home, Ms Jones said: “The whole experience makes you realise what is really important. This year we are planning a Christmas to remember, with the children and Martin's parents all coming over.”

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