Police 'targeted in firebomb attack'

TWO Essex police officers and their families were the victims of a “terrifying and potentially murderous” fire-bomb attack as they slept in their beds, it has been alleged.

TWO Essex police officers and their families were the victims of a “terrifying and potentially murderous” fire-bomb attack as they slept in their beds, it has been alleged.

The two attacks at the Clacton homes of Det Insp Michael Ornellas, of Holland Road, and Det Sgt Martin Brough, of Frinton Road, were carried out within minutes of each other in the early hours of the morning, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Det Insp Ornellas was disturbed by the sound of smashing glass on the ground floor of his three-storey property at about 5am on January 28 this year, said Peter Lodder QC, prosecuting.

When he went to investigate he discovered the lower part of the staircase leading from the ground floor on fire. Also in the house at the time was his wife Vanessa and their sons Michael, 25, David, 20 and Joseph, 15.

“The stairs were the only way out of the house and they were cut off by flames,” said Mr Lodder.

The police officer grabbed some damp towels hanging on the banisters and used them to smother the flames. He then stamped on the towels and became aware of glass.

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“His feet were cut and burnt. There was a lot of smoke. He was choking and coughing. He shouted to everybody to get out,” Mr Lodder said.

He added that thanks to Det Insp Ornellas' quick-thinking, his family got out of the house safely.

The court heard that six minutes after the fire service was called to the home they received another call to the Brough's home which was three minutes drive away.

Mr Lodder said Det Sgt Brough, who served with Det.Insp Ornellas at the local police station, his wife Mandy, their 22-month-old son and two-day old baby daughter, who was spending her first night at home, were subjected to a similar attack.

Det Sgt Brough had got up at 4am to attend to his son while his wife fed their baby and had been unable to get back to sleep. Some time later he had become aware of the sound of loud banging coming from the front of the house.

He discovered that a panel next to his front door had been set alight and flames were licking at the front door, said Mr Lodder.

Det Sgt Brough called out to his wife to call 999 and he had gone to his son's room above the fire and taken him downstairs.

Outside, the officer found two milk bottles, each containing a black sock, which was being used as a wick, and a burning trail leading to the area of his front door.

He unsuccessfully tried to put out the fire with water and then tried to smother the flames with a blanket. Both he and his wife noticed a strong smell of petrol and they also found that windows on both their cars had been smashed.

“It was obvious this was no accident and that they were connected. They were deliberate attacks using what are sometimes known as Molotov Cocktails,”said Mr Lodder.

He said that both families had been subjected to a “terrifying and potentially murderous fire-bomb attack”.

He said the fire at the Ornellas' home could have developed into a “flash-over” in as little as four minutes had it not been put out.

Before the court are Angelo DeBono, 31, of Windermere Road, Clacton, Jamie Brett, 20, of Boxted Avenue, Clacton and Jason Eagles, 22, of Agincourt Road, Clacton. They have all denied attempting to murder the two police officers and arson with intent to endanger life.

Mr Lodder told the court that Det Insp Ornellas had dealt with DeBono when he was a juvenile and DeBono had also been involved in a relationship with a woman who lived in the same road as the Ornellas family.

Det Insp Ornellas had felt uncomfortable at seeing DeBono in the street where he lived and DeBono had also made comments about him being a police officer.

The court heard that after their arrests all three defendants denied being involved in the fire-bomb attacks.

The trial, which is expected to last five weeks, continues today.

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