A PROUD pigeon racer has been left devastated after dozens of his prized birds were killed in an arson attack which caused more than £40,000 worth of damage.
Michael Gibbins, 48, was heartbroken after being woken in the early hours of Thursday morning and told that his allotment had been ripped apart by a fire.
Firefighters battled the blaze for more than two hours but were helpless in preventing more than £40,000 of damage.
The cause of the blaze has been described as “deliberate” by police and fire officers.
Devastated Michael lost 87 of his prizewinning pigeons, including two which he recently bought from Belgium for more than £1,000.
It is thought only three of the birds survived the blaze.
The dad-of-two said he spends every day at his allotment site, off Dowson Road, Hartlepool, which has been in the family for more than 50 years. It was previously owned by his dad, Bobby, who died of cancer in 2005.
He hit out at the “cowards” who caused the fire and admitted he doesn’t see how he can ever repair the damage caused by the inferno.
“It’s devastating, I’m just distraught,” said Michael, who lives in the town centre area of Hartlepool.
“I don’t interfere with other people’s problems,
“I just get on with my own life, yet some spineless cowards come and do this. It’s disgusting.”
Firefighters were back at the scene early on Thursday morning to probe the fire which they said was started deliberately.
Cleveland Police attended the scene, and are investigating the incident. Anyone with any information is asked to come forward.
Michael, who has sons Michael, 17, and Robert, 15, said: “How can people destroy poor animals which can’t do anything to defend themselves?
“It’s the work of cowards. If they had a problem why didn’t they just come and see me?
“I can’t put a price on the damage they have caused to the pigeons, sheds and machines, it must be more than £40,000.
“We have had trouble here in the past. On Tuesday night this week I had kids on the trees out the back.
“I have spoken to the police about it. The allotments at Burn Valley have cameras, why don’t we have any here?”
A fellow allotment owner, who didn’t want to be named, said: “It’s a crying shame.
“When you leave here on a night you just don’t know what to expect when you come back the next morning.
“These allotments are our pride and joy.”
Ronnie Olds, crew manager at Stranton Station, said: “We received a call just after 2am on Thursday and left the allotment at about 4am.
“It’s devastating for the owner. Our investigations are ongoing.”
A spokesman for Cleveland Police said: “We got a call from the fire brigade at 2.38am on Thursday reporting a number of sheds on fire at the Dowson Road allotments.
“The cause has been given as deliberate and we will be working closely with the fire brigade in our investigations.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302178.