Arson attack on elderly couple's home

By Ted JeoryDETECTIVES were searching last night for arsonists who tried to burn down a 400-year-old wooden terraced house where an infirm elderly couple were sleeping.

By Ted Jeory

DETECTIVES were searching last night for arsonists who tried to burn down a 400-year-old wooden terraced house where an infirm elderly couple were sleeping.

Police said a woman carer who lives at the couple's home in Coggeshall prevented a tragedy by putting out the fire after hearing a smoke alarm.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said it was the third arson attack in the picturesque village this year, although officers were confident the latest incident was not linked to the other two.

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The latest blaze was started at about 6am yesterday when a fire accelerant was poured through the letter box of Robert Goodwin's home in Queen Street and set alight.

The carer, who is not a family member, discovered a small fire by the door, but managed to put it out with a bowl of water.

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Toby Gould, whose house is in the same row as the Goodwins', said: "At first I thought it was just Mrs Goodwin's machinery going off and thought nothing more.

"But then I heard people walking around next door. Bob opened his door and said he thought it was a smoke bomb. Initially you don't think too much of it, but later on when you think about it, it's much more scary."

The police spokeswoman said: "It is only due to the quick response of the couple's carer that they are still alive.

"As the house is wooden and mid-terrace, not only would the fire have undoubtedly resulted in the death of the couple, but would have potentially burned down the adjacent properties and injured or killed the occupants."

She added Mr Goodwin was 82 and struggled to get around, while his wife, 79, was bed-ridden.

Firefighters from Braintree and Coggeshall were called to the blaze and were on the scene within minutes.

Essex Police stepped up their presence in the village yesterday and a mobile station was set up opposite the Goodwins' home.

Chief Inspector Stuart Ashton, of Essex Police, said: "We just want to reassure the public that this is an isolated incident and also as it happened when it was dark many people may have been unaware of it, so we want to jog memories.

"What has motivated someone to do something like this, I just cannot imagine. I appeal to the person to come forward – they have thought they were just playing a prank, but it went wrong – seriously so."

An Essex fire service spokeswoman said the blaze appeared to have started in the living room near the front door of the house.

She added: "Without smoke detectors, this would have been a tragic incident costing possibly three lives. The fire is being treated as suspicious and is being investigated by police and fire service investigators."

In the other arson attacks, an empty house up for sale by the river in West Street was set on fire on January 20 and the MX Racer store in the Priors Way industrial estate was attacked on February 8, causing extensive damage.

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