DELIBERATE FIRE IN COMMERCIAL PREMISES
At around 4.30am, smoke was reported by occupants of a residence above a shop in a row of similar buildings dating from the 1920s. Attending firefighters located the source of the smoke to the next-door ground floor convenience store, which had an empty flat above the shop. They had to cut padlocks from the lowered front metal roller shutter and force the locked shop door behind it to gain entry and extinguish the fire.
Examination of the scene several days later showed numerous separate areas of burning within the shop, none of which had progressed very far but together had produced very a very large amount of smoke. The smoke had penetrated the upstairs flat, the roof space above and seeped into the neighbouring properties. Within the shop, the till was found intact but the cigarette cabinet was unlocked with its roller front raised and emptied of contents.
In some of the areas of burning were liquid pool and run marks. Underlying the delightful fragrances of rotting meat in the refrigerators, decaying fruit and vegetables from displays in the middle of the shop and spices spilt from shelves during the firefighting, was a distinctive odour of ignitable hydrocarbon liquid. Samples were taken from various locations and laboratory analysis confirmed that petrol had been distributed and ignited inside the shop. Because it was so well closed up, with little ventilation, the initial flames had died down quickly and each area of burning had progressed slowly generating large amounts of soot due to incomplete combustion.
There were only two key holders to the roller shutter padlocks and both were questioned. The shop owner claimed to have been at home in bed all night, but his vehicle was captured outside the shop at 3:45am on a CCTV recording obtained from a nearby property. A figure was visible opening, entering, leaving and securing the shop, while carrying an item which may have been a fuel can. Although the person in the recording could not be positively identified and no-one was charged by Police, the insurer took the view there was enough evidence to deny the claim.