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'We knew it was going to explode' - Family's terror as ice cream van set on fire outside home

PUBLISHED: 15:27 04 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:40 06 June 2019

Jays Ice Cream Van was destroyed in an arson attack. Photo: Charlene Rixon.

Jays Ice Cream Van was destroyed in an arson attack. Photo: Charlene Rixon.

Archant

An ice cream van filled with gas canisters was torched in a targeted arson attack while parked outside a family home where six children slept inside.

Jays Ice Cream Van was destroyed in an arson attack. Photo: Charlene Rixon.Jays Ice Cream Van was destroyed in an arson attack. Photo: Charlene Rixon.

Charlene and James Rixon, of Clayton Road, in Ramsey near Harwich, were woken by a frantic call from a neighbour at around 2.45am on Saturday, June 1.

The couple, who have run Jays Ice Cream for the past three years, had parked their van on their driveway, as they usually do.

"They rang me and said 'Please don't go outside but your ice cream van is up in flames'", said Mrs Rixon.

What the neighbour didn't know, but the couple did, was the van's ice cream machines are all gas powered, meaning multiple gas canisters were stored in the vehicle overnight.

Jays Ice Cream Van was destroyed in an arson attack. Photo: Charlene Rixon.Jays Ice Cream Van was destroyed in an arson attack. Photo: Charlene Rixon.

Mr Rixon burst into action. Thinking quickly he grabbed a mop bucket from the house and, with the help of a neighbour, began fighting the fire himself.

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"Thank god my neighbour across the road was awake," Mrs Rixon added, "My other half and a neighbour kept throwing water over it.

"We knew all the machines are run by gas, we knew it was going to explode."

As her husband fought the flames Mrs Rixon gathered her six children, aged between three and 16, away from the front of the house to the safety of the back.

She said they had been left "absolutely petrified" - with the younger children terrified of repeat attacks.

The mother said CCTV from outside her home captured a man sneaking up to the van in the early hours, then running away shortly before the neighbours call.

"They have targeted my ice cream van", she said, "It's not against me - it's against my business."

Emergency services arrived at the scene and by around 3am had extinguished the blaze.

An Essex Police spokesman added: "We are treating the fire as deliberate. Enquiries are ongoing."

The attack has destroyed the family's business. While the van cost £17,000, the loss of trade during the busy summer season is likely to reach into the thousands.

Mrs Rixon added: "The van is completely written off, before the season we had the whole van refurbished, no we have just got to wait for the insurance."

Anyone with information about the attack should call Essex Police on 101 quoting crime reference 42/85652/19.

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