Don ‘very lucky’ to escape arson attack

first_imgAN OXFORD Professor and his family are “lucky to be alive” after two teenagers set fire to their home in a Halloween arson attack.Three fire engines, a police unit and an ambulance were called to the Headington home of English Professor and Merton fellow David Norbrook on 31 October, after youths started a fire by putting fireworks through his kitchen door. Norbrook, his wife and two young children, who were asleep in the house when the fire broke out, managed to escape unharmed, although their home may be uninhabitable for up to nine months.Fire and Rescue Service Fire Investigation Officer Guy Dunkley said that the family had been very fortunate to escape the blaze. “Luckily this particular family had a working smoke alarm in their home which alerted them to the fire. They are extremely lucky to be alive,” he said.18-year-old Jamie Matthews, and a 17-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons, were arrested in connection with the fire, and appeared before Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, where they were charged with arson with intent to endanger life.They have been granted conditional bail to appear at Oxford Crown Court on November 19, and have been forbidden from contacting each other or Professor Norbrook. It is expected that they will face prison sentences. A spokesperson for Oxfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Service said, “We received a call at 11:58 on the night of Halloween. When we arrived, the crew were faced with a serious fire in the ground floor kitchen of the house. The family had managed to get out of the house before we arrived. The property was severely damaged by the fire.”One of Norbrook’s neighbours also witnessed the events. “It was 12 at night and there was a hell of a bang and a flash. Fire engines and an ambulance and the police came. Their [Norbrook’s] next door neighbour went like a flash to get them out but they were already out of the house because they had smoke detectors. They had to stay the night next door and then moved to a B&B. They reckon 6 to 9 months before they can move back in. The police cordoned off the area for a day and then it was boarded up,” he said.  A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police warned that the case would be treated as a serious offence and not just a Halloween prank. “The court are treating it as arson with an intent to endanger life which is a very serious charge. What first appeared to be a Halloween prank has ended up with very serious consequences,” he said.  Norbrook said he had no idea why the teenagers decided to attack his property. “I don’t even know the names of the teenagers involved and have no knowledge of why they did it. But it has happened and they are being charged,” he said.  Neighbours have expressed their sympathy for the family. “It was a dreadful thing and very upsetting for them, with two little children. It’s a good job they got out safely as they did,” said one resident. Another added that she did not think there had been any malicious intent behind the attack. “It was just a Halloween prank that went horribly wrong. Some kids put a rocket through the kitchen door and it just exploded, the windows completely shattered,” she said. Incident Manager Richard Bowley estimated the cost of damage to the house to be thousands of pounds, adding, “The family were very lucky to escape without serious injury. The fire investigation team were called in and after a painstaking search, found a firework underneath the debris in the kitchen which is believed to have started the fire. The incident is now being dealt with by the police.”last_img

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