Warning as firebugs target Suffolk farms

POLICE are hunting arsonists who torched two barns during late night attacks in west Suffolk - putting cattle at risk and wrecking buildings and machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

James Mortlock

POLICE are hunting arsonists who torched two barns during late night attacks in west Suffolk - putting cattle at risk and wrecking buildings and machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

One of the farmers targeted by the firebugs, who struck in the early hours of Saturday, described the aftermath of the blaze, in a massive barn only yards from his home, as “devastating”.

The landowner, who farms at Nowton, near Bury St Edmunds, and was too worried about the arson attack to be named, condemned the fire-raisers who set light to his barn only minutes after they started a blaze in a building at nearby Lawshall opposite the gates of Coldham Hall, the country mansion owned by German supermodel Claudia Schiffer and her family.

The Nowton farmer told how he and his wife were woken by a series of phone calls from worried neighbours who spotted the flames in the early hours of Saturday: “We were asleep upstairs but my wife came downstairs to answer the phone and saw the fire.

“The first thing we did was get the cattle out of the barn and then the fire brigade arrived.”

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He said he was relieved no-one had been hurt but said he had lost the 15,000sq m barn and valuable equipment - both vintage and new - and estimated it would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to rebuild and replace.

“This kind of thing is just something we will have to live with. We feel devastated and cross about why someone would want to do something like this.

“It's so quiet up here - it's unbelievable someone has done this after doing the same thing only a few miles away.”

The couple thanked their neighbours, the fire service and a team from the Stowmarket Salvation Army, which spent the early hours of Saturday providing tea and coffee for exhausted firefighters.

A police spokesman confirmed a joint police and fire service investigation had been launched into the incidents, which he said were being linked and treated as suspicious because of their similarity, the proximity of the two barns and the fact that the fires were started within minutes of each other. He also warned other farmers in the area to be particularly vigilant.

Fire crews from across Suffolk were involved in the two operations. Officers continued to damp down at the Nowton barn for much of Saturday.

A spokesman for the fire service said the blaze at Nowton had engulfed 100% of the barn when two crews from Bury arrived on the scene. “The fire also involved fertilizer and a vehicle workshop and the crews requested a further two engines - one from Wickhambrook and one from Ixworth and a water carrier was sent from Newmarket,” he said.

He said at the height of the blaze four officers in breathing gear were involved in the successful battle to stop the flames spreading to the workshop.

Back up was called in from Framlingham, Newmarket, Stowmarket and Sudbury fire stations and officers continued to sift the remains of the wrecked machinery and straw and hay looking for fire pockets for many hours.

The fire at Lawshall involved a similar sized barn and crews from Long Melford and Bury were involved in the initial operation. Half of the straw and machinery inside the barn was damaged in the blaze. Relief crews were called in from Hadleigh and Clare and the fire was under control by 4.30am.

Witnesses or people with any information about the arson attacks should contact police on 01284 774100.

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