EXCLUSIVE: Pitsea arson attack may have been attempt to harm homeless

AN ARSON attack on a derelict building may have been a deliberate attempt to harm homeless people.

Essex Police told the YA it had not ruled out the possibility that the deliberate fire at the old bingo hall in High Road, Pitsea, was a targeted attack on the people believed to be staying inside.

The fire broke out on Tuesday, September 3 – days after local press reports said homeless people had been sleeping in the building.

An investigation by the Essex fire service found evidence that the fire was an arson attack, sparking a police investigation.

Asked whether it believed the fire was started as a result of the press reports, Essex Police told the YA: “The motive is unknown. However, we continue to keep an open mind.”

Tory councillor Craig Rimmer said he had heard from residents that three separate parts of the building had been set ablaze during the attack.

However, the Essex fire service press office has refused to answer basic questions about the incident.

The YA asked whether the fire was started from the inside or the outside, and whether an accelerant was used.

But the fire service said that if the YA wanted to know the answers to those questions, it would have to file a legal action.

Seven fire crews from as far away as Rayleigh and Grays were scrambled to the blaze at the former bingo hall last week. The fire was first reported at 3.02pm and took two hours to extinguish. Crews remained at the scene for another hour, damping down hotspots.

Nobody was inside the building by the time the emergency services arrived.

Essex Police said: “We continue to get witnesses’ statements and we are looking to develop the identity of the suspects.”

Charles Thomson

Chief Reporter Email: basildon@yellowad.co.uk