Letterbox arson attacks warning

DETECTIVES are investigating after two neighbours in a street had lit tissue paper posted through their letterboxes in the early hours.

Police and fire chiefs have blasted the “mindless” act, saying lives could have been lost if the fire had spread.

Police are stepping up patrols and offering fireproof letterbox covers in Warwick Place, Peterlee, after the two arson attacks this month.

They are warning residents to be vigilant and to make sure their smoke alarms are working following the two attacks.

The first incident was overnight between May 7 and May 8 when a 78-year-old woman from the street was targeted.

The pensioner is described as “vulnerable” and the remains of the tissue, which had burned out on a doormat, were not discovered until later in the morning when her shocked granddaughter visited.

The second incident took place around 5.15am on Wednesday, when two men in their 30s at a house a few doors away were luckily woken by a smoke alarm and managed to put the fire out themselves.

Acting Detective Sergeant Andy Reynolds, of Peterlee CID, said: “The police are taking the two incidents very seriously – it could have caused a lot more damage and somebody could have been hurt.

“One of the victims was an elderly lady who is quite vulnerable and had the fire started, it may have been difficult for her to act.

“It would seem to be totally random – there is no particular motive why we think anyone would target either of these victims.

“I would advise residents to make sure their smoke alarms are working and to look out for anyone suspicious hanging around in the early mornings between 5am and 8am and report any suspicious sightings to the police.

“We are actively seeking the offender, continuing to make forensic checks, and we will be paying more attention to the area with high-visibility patrols.”

Stephen McLaughlan, crew manager at Peterlee Fire Station, who visited the victims of Wednesday’s attack, said: “We fitted a canvas fire bag to the back of the door, which would contain fire inside.

“We have done a blitz of the area and made everybody aware at Warwick Place of what is going on.

“Our advice is to be vigilant and make sure your smoke alarm is working.

“The situation could have been a lot worse, especially with the fires being right at the bottom of the stairs and blocking an escape route.”

Anyone with concerns or information regarding the fires can call Peterlee CID on 0345 6060365 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.