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Fears over spate of arson attacks

PUBLISHED: 14:16 24 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:27 03 July 2010

Residents of a Norfolk village are living in fear of an arsonist who has struck numerous times over the last year.

Some elderly people in Loddon have suffered panic attacks while others cannot sleep because they are so worried that whoever is responsible will strike again.

Residents of a Norfolk village are living in fear of an arsonist who has struck numerous times over the last year.

Some elderly people in Loddon have suffered panic attacks while others cannot sleep because they are so worried that whoever is responsible will strike again.

Police yesterday issued an urgent appeal for information as villagers warned it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or killed.

Mystery surrounds the identity of the arsonist who strikes at night targeting wheelie bins and waste. In some cases the flames have spread to fences, sheds and even homes, but fortunately so far no-one has been seriously injured.

It is not known whether one person is responsible or if the fires have been started by a number of people.

The attacks have centred on Hobart Road, Cedar Drive, Leman Grove, The Walks and a mini recycling centre outside Jubilee Hall in George Lane.

A number of residents in the area were yesterday too frightened to speak for fear of reprisals. But one said: “There are a lot of elderly people who live in the area and they are genuinely living in fear. They cannot sleep properly and one woman has been to the doctor twice with panic attacks. The general feeling among residents is that there is going to be a tragedy before anything is done about it.”

In the most recent spate of attacks a man had a lucky escape after a fire was started in a storage area at a block of flats in Hobart Road last Monday night. The man only escaped unhurt because he had a working smoke alarm and the fire was so strong that it burst a plastic water pipe creating a sprinkler effect.

Graham Joy, local risk manager for Norfolk Fire Service, said: “There have been a series of fires over the last year involving wheelie bins. One caused substantial damage to a property belonging to Saffron Housing Trust. They have been happening on and off over a period of time and they now seem to have been resurrected again.”

The fire service, Norfolk police, South Norfolk Council and local councillors have been working together to try to deal with the problem. The police and the fire service have distributed leaflets to residents and are advising people not to put their wheelie bins out until the day they are due to be collected.

Mr Joy said arrangements had also been made with the district council to move bin collections back an hour to encourage people to do this.

John Allison, police inspector for Loddon and Poringland, stressed there was no evidence individuals were being deliberately targeted. He urged residents to follow advice and to remain vigilant. He said Loddon is to get an extra dedicated sergeant and an extra police constable.

He said: “If anybody within the community has an idea however big or small about who is responsible I would appeal to them to present that information to us either directly or via Crimestoppers anonymously.”

Loddon district councillor Colin Gould, a former police officer who was based in the village for more than 30 years, said: “It has got to be stopped before something really serious happens.”

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