POLICE have launched an investigation after the home of a former boxer was targeted in an apparent arson attack.
The incident took place at the home of ex-boxer Michael Hunter, in Eskdale Road in the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool.
Mr Hunter and his partner were in the house at the time of the incident and escaped unharmed, although the property was badly damaged.
Fire crews who tackled the blaze have confirmed the blaze, at 11.10pm on Tuesday, is being treated as suspicious.
Scenes of crime officers carried out forensic tests at the house yesterday, with the front room windows having been blown out and further damage caused at the rear of the end-terraced property.
As part of the investigation, tests are being carried out to determine whether any accelerants were used to start the fire.
Mr Hunter did not wish to comment on the incident when approached by the Mail.
One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: “It seemed pretty bad, there was a right commotion and there were blue lights all over the place.
“It looks like there has been quite a bit of damage, I’m just pleased nobody was hurt because it could have been much worse by the looks of things.”
Three fire crews attended the blaze, with Mr Hunter and his partner both having made their way out by the time they arrived.
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Officers were called to a property at around 11.10pm on Tuesday, November 4.
“The male and female occupants of the address were uninjured in the incident.
“A joint investigation with Cleveland Fire Brigade has now been launched after it was confirmed that the fire is being treated as suspicious.”
Mike Picknett, Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Group Manager, said: “There is no doubt that the occupants survived because they had closed the living room door before they went to bed, and although there was smoke damage in other parts of the property, the closed door contained the fire, enabling the occupants to get out of the property safely.
“We would always advise people to shut all their downstairs doors at night as that helps to contain a fire if one breaks out.”
Mr Hunter, a familiar face in Hartlepool and one of the best boxers the town has ever produced, fought at super bantamweight level and is a former British and European champion in that division.
He retired briefly in 2008, but came back and made an unsuccessful challenge the following year for the vacant British title.
He hung up his gloves again and made his final comeback in 2012 where he recorded his 30th professional win.
He was beaten only twice in 33 appearances and won eight of his 10 major title contests.
Officers would appeal for anyone with information to contact Detective Sergeant Jon Hagen, from the Major Crime Team at Cleveland Police, on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.