Royston church fire not caused by arson

PUBLISHED: 14:45 07 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:39 11 March 2019

A fire has broken out at the St John the Baptist Church in Royston: Gemma Rose

A fire has broken out at the St John the Baptist Church in Royston: Gemma Rose

Archant

A fire that destroyed part of a Royston church last year is no longer being considered as an arson attack, police have confirmed.

Evidence of the fire damage at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOOEvidence of the fire damage at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOO

In the early hours of December 9, 2018, a fire started at St John the Baptist Church in Melbourn Street, with the blaze destroying part of the roof and bell tower.

Early indications led the police to believe that the fire may have been started deliberately or been caused by lead being removed from the roof.

However, an investigation has concluded that it was not arson.

Detective Constable Mike Hardiman saying: “Every possible line of enquiry has been followed. All initial aspects of this incident which supported the idea of third party involvement, have been investigated and ruled out.

Emergency services on the scene at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOOEmergency services on the scene at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOO

“No lead had been taken, no equipment used by a would-be suspect was found and there were no tyre marks or foot prints found in the immediate area.

“I know that at the time there was great concern within the local community that the church had been deliberately targeted and this was very upsetting, particularly as it was in the run up to Christmas.

“As the investigation progressed it became apparent that much of the initial evidence that suggested criminal behaviour could actually be accounted for and the incident was deemed as non suspicious.”

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald has welcomed news that the fire was not arson.

Emergency services on the scene at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOOEmergency services on the scene at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOO

He said: “I am relieved that the police have now confirmed that this was not an arson attack. 
“The church is a very special place for local people in the run up to Christmas. I had lit the Christmas Tree lights the week before with a large group there.

“Although it is still very sad the Church has been the victim of fire, I know many people will also be glad like me that this was not deliberate.”

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