Hartlepool’s hospice is set to lose thousands of pounds after arsonists torched one it its most popular fundraising shops.
Volunteers for Alice House Hospice are devasted after the Horden charity shop was destroyed by a blaze.
It is believed the shop was burgled and then torched and police have dubbed it ‘a cowardly attack’.
Karen Witherley, senior retail manager for the Hartlepool-based hospice, said they are stunned that someone could set fire to a shop which raised money to support terminally ill people and their families across Hartlepool and East Durham.
She said: “The front was all black and we just assumed the fire had started through an electrical fault. It just didn’t enter my head that someone would actually start a fire deliberately at a charity shop.
“But, a few days later when we were allowed in with the police, they told us that it had actually been a burglary and someone had set fire to the shop.
If they can do this to a charity shop, what else are they capable of doing?Karen Witherley
“The sort of person who could do this is just despicable, they have no morals. If they can do this to a charity shop, what else are they capable of doing?”
Karen said the shop in Blackhills Road is one of the charity’s most popular ones and generated a massive £24,000 a year for the hospice, which could now be lost.
All the upper wooden floor in the building has been burned away, all the stock in the shop has been destroyed and the thieves even made off with the safe, which would have contained at the most £200.
Karen said: “The shop was so well used, people bought a lot of goods there and also donated loads. We are really hoping we won’t lose these valuable supporters because of this.
“I think the people of Horden will be very shocked and upset when they realise the fire was caused by an arson attack.”
She said there are people living in the flats either side of the shop and she is so thankful that no-one was killed or injured.
Firefighters were called to the building at around 1.20am on Monday, October 9, after a member of the public spotted the flames.
They were on site for almost two hours putting out the blaze and then a joint investigation with police was launched.
A Durham Constabulary spokesman said: “This was a cowardly attack on a charity shop.
“All donated goods that were stored in the shop have sadly been destroyed. I would ask anyone with information to contact us on 101 quoting incident reference 20 of October 9.”
Karen said there is no way the charity can operate from the shop and the future of it is unclear at the moment.
She is urging people in the village to use the nearby shops in Peterlee and Blackhall to buy and make donations and anyone can have their donations collected by phoning 01429 234143.