Barnstaple arson attacks that destroyed seven cars could be linked, say police

Police are not ruling out the possibility that a spate of arson attacks in North Devon could be linked. Seven cars were destroyed or damaged in three separate incidents in Barnstaple over the course of five days. On Thursday, June 13 two fires were reported at opposite ends of the town – the first at Sticklepath around 1.20am and the second at Whiddon Valley at 3.20am.

Six vehicles, including a campervan, van and several cars, were destroyed or damaged in these fires. Then earlier this week yet another fire was reported to firefighters involving a Vauxhall Corsa which was set alight on Victoria Street around 1.25am on Monday, June 17.

An investigation into all three incidents is ongoing but Barnstaple Sector Inspector Emma Carpenter said they are not ruling out the possibility they could be linked. Insp Carpenter said: “Police investigations are continuing into these incidents and we have been working closely with officers from the fire service.

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“There is currently nothing specific to suggest these crimes are linked, but we are not ruling out the possibility of this at this stage.

“Officers from the neighbourhood team have been carrying out patrols of the affected areas and we would urge residents to remain vigilant and to call 999 if they see any suspicious behaviour.” Here’s what we know about each incident:

Thursday, June 13 – Sticklepath and Whiddon Valley area

Barnstaple arson attacks that destroyed seven cars could be linked, say police

Around six vans and cars were damaged or destroyed in the early hours of Thursday morning. The incidents happened at opposite ends of Barnstaple between 1.20am and 3.20am.

One involved a car on the back of a recovery truck was set alight at 1.25am, parked opposite the alleyway between Woodville and Cheswood Avenue.

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A neighbour heard glass exploding in the car and quickly rang police and the fire service. Justin Herbert, the owner, said: “Police say there is a big investigation. But I have contacted them and no one has come out to investigate or even interview me about it.

“The car was on the back of a recovery truck and they set the car on fire.  Firefighters were quick to save the recovery truck.

Barnstaple arson attacks that destroyed seven cars could be linked, say policeA car on the back of a low loader truck was severely damaged by fire in the Sticklepath area

“The car on the back was a scrap car with no battery or no fuel, so no explosives. “The fire brigade said it was definitely done deliberately. “I was up all night as I was worried someone would come back and finish the job.”

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A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “Two crews from Barnstaple were mobilised to reports of a vehicle on fire.

“Crews set about extinguishing the fire using one hose reel jet and two breathing apparatus. “The vehicle was severely damaged by fire with minimal damage to the tow truck. Cause was believed deliberate and all details were passed to police as an arson.”

Barnstaple arson attacks that destroyed seven cars could be linked, say police

Then, less than two hours later at 3.21am, firefighters were called to a second, larger blaze at Lower Moor in the Whiddon Valley area of town.

They had received reports of a camper van of fire in a communal car park on the housing estate and two engines were sent to the scene.

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The owner of the campervan and neighbouring Suzuki car, who wished to remain anonymous, told Devon Live she was shocked and upset by the incident. Her and her husband had purchased the vehicle three years ago for GBP1,400 and spent close to GBP5,000 doing it up.

Barnstaple arson attacks that destroyed seven cars could be linked, say police

They have lost both their campervan and car as a result of the fire. Speaking through tears, she said: “It’s unbelievable, you never imagine something like this happening to you.

“I haven’t been able to go outside and look at the damage in daylight yet and we haven’t yet spoken to the police.

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“We saw sparks outside just after 3am and then saw it was on fire and called 999.  Several other neighbours had already done so, we’re lucky we’ve got such good neighbours. “The campervan had just been MOT’d and it had all our camping stuff in it like sleeping bags, pillows, dog blankets, a stereo, DVD player and kitchen utensils. “There were also two Calor gas cylinders inside but luckily the firemen managed to get them out before they exploded.

“We are in the process of speaking to the insurance company about it.”

A spokesman said: “On arrival crews confirmed there were several vehicles involved in the fire. Crews used four breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets and one foam jet to extinguish the fires. “A campervan, a van and a car were all severely damaged by fire.  Two other cars were slightly damaged by fire.

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“The cause of the fire was deliberate and the police were informed.”

Police would like to hear from anyone who may have seen or heard anything suspicious in the area at the time of the attacks. Contact  [email protected]  or phone 101, quoting crime reference CR/052184/19 {Whiddon Down] and log 61 of 13/06/19 [Sticklepath].

Monday, June 17 – Newport area

Another vehicle has joined those affected by arson attacks in three separate locations in Barnstaple. A Vauxhall Corsa was set on fire at around 1.25am this morning at Victoria Street.

The vehicle was completely burnt out and melted from the rear up to the back seats.

Anyone with information is urged to contact police on 101, or email  [email protected] , quoting crime reference number CR/053525/19.

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