Couple’s fear and anger as car is hit with ‘baseball bat’ after previously being set alight

A couple have spoken of their shock after their car was hit with a baseball bat – a year after the same vehicle was badly damaged in a fire.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 2:08 pm
Elaine's car after the fire on August 14, 2020.

Durham Police are investigating after officers received report of damage caused to a Mercedes in Blackhall Colliery.

Husband and wife Austin and Elaine Cooper have said they were inside the house at the time of the incident and initially thought someone was hitting a dustbin.

Austin, 67, has said the car was hit in up to 15 places with a baseball bat, with one of the panels and the bonnet needing to be replaced and the damage “going into the thousands”.

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The total insurance claims following the fire in August last year amounted to over £14,000.

The grandfather-of-four added the car had been locked in the garage every night since a previous incident on September 4 last year when the rear of Elaine’s car was set on fire overnight.

He said: "When we had this latest damage, it was a shock, but it wasn’t a surprise.

“I’m more mad than frightened. I honestly don’t think this should be happening in Blackhall.”

Austin put the September 2020 fire out himself and Durham Police have said an arson investigation took place.

The force added that the investigation was “finalised” after all lines of enquiry were “explored”.

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Former camping and caravan club manager Austin has said that Elaine got the car after her previous Mercedes was destroyed in a fire less than three weeks earlier, on August 14, 2020, with total insurance claims amounting to £14,000.

Following the latest incident, Elaine, 63, has said she is scared to go out and drive her car.

She said: "I’m actually frightened to go out and drive my own car now.

"We’re locking our gates on our drive on a night. We’re locking ourselves in. If there was a fire in this house, that in itself is a danger, because of the way we are barricading ourselves in our own home because of this.“

Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service have confirmed they were called to a private vehicle fire on August 14, 2020, and added that the fire was “accidental”.

A County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: "Reports of a private vehicle fire on 14 August, 2020, came into CDDFRS control at 21:38.

"Crews from Peterlee attended and worked to tackle the fire. The vehicle was parked close to a dwelling which caused slight damage to a window.

"The police were informed although they had not attended. The incident was accidental.”

Referring to the 2021 fire, a spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: “Officers are currently investigating an incident which took place on Brockwell Street, Blackhall Colliery, on August 13.

“Police received a report of damage having been caused to a vehicle and a criminal damage investigation is ongoing.

“On September 4 last year, police had also received a report of a vehicle fire at the same location, at around 11.40pm.

“The fire was extinguished before extensive damage was caused and an arson investigation took place.

“All lines of inquiry were explored before the investigation was finalised.”

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