Children asleep as house torched with burning tyres

Children’s lives were put at risk in an arson attack in which car tyres were stacked up against a house door and torched.

The end of terrace council house on Homestead Moat, Stevenage was targeted in the attack shortly before 12.45am on Thursday last week.

The property, which Stevenage Homes said is tenanted, but neighbours said is only sporadically visited by a man and his partner, was badly smoke damaged. It was empty at the time.

Fire crews found the house and garden littered with rubbish, including with tyres used in the attack. These had been covered with an accelerant to start the blaze at the side door of the property leading to the kitchen, Herts Fire Service said.

As the plastic door was destroyed and the house filled with thick black smoke, it spread through the adjoining rafters to the neighbouring house, where children were asleep.

Next door neighbour Ray Johnson came home at around 1am to find the road blocked at both ends and three fire crews tackling the blaze.

“When I got in it was full of smoke in the house. And my fire alarm was going off. All the smoke was billowing through.

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“My kids were in bed. They slept through it. It could have been much worse than what it was.”

Mr Johnson said Herts County Council’s street light black-out policy after midnight is encouraging criminal behaviour in the area - which was the scene of a sexual assault on a young woman last month.

“It’s really pitch black down here. I don’t wonder there’s a lot more going on. Even I’m a bit dubious walking down here at night.”

Mr Johnson gave footage from infrared CCTV cameras installed on his home to Herts Police to help its investigation.

Former policeman Gary Kingsbury who lives opposite, said the commotion woke him up.

“I couldn’t see the house much because there was too much smoke.

“It’s a shame – it’s a council house and they’ve got to repair it before they can let it out. They’ve just done the roof recently and kitchens and bathrooms have been done around here.”

Mr Kingsbury also feared what might happen next in the Bedwell neighbourhood.

“There was that young girl attacked as well. You get this kind of thing and it makes you want to move.”

Stevenage Homes would not comment on the occupancy record or rent upkeep for the targeted property, or the cost of repairs to the three-bedroom house.

A police investigation is ongoing. If you have information that could help officers, call 101 with crime reference E1/12/6481.

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