Gang Feud Claim At Arson Attack House
BYLINE: Sam Wood
The Journal (Newcastle, UK)
AFIRE at a home for asylum seekers in Newcastle could have been started deliberately because of a feud between rival gangs, a resident said last night.
People staying at the house, on Lynnwood Avenue, Elswick, had to flee in the middle of the night after a fire broke out in one of the downstairs bedrooms. Three were trapped by smoke and had to be rescued by firefighters, while 11 others managed to escape before fire crews arrived.
Last night, police said they were investigating the cause of the blaze but refused to comment on rumours of gang activity. One resident, who didn’t want to be named for fear of repercussions, told The Journal of his terror at leaving his room to see the house filled with smoke. He said:
“I was just watching the news when I heard some loud shouting and arguing. There was a fight and I could hear people barging around downstairs. I looked out of my window and saw a group of about eight people running off down the street with bags. I carried on watching TV and 15 minutes later I started to smell smoke. Then I saw a police car stop at the house and the police rushed in. I heard someone shouting, Fire! Fire! I ran out of my room but there was smoke everywhere and I couldn’t see anything. I ran back into my room and closed the door. I was panting to try to get my breath. I was going to jump out of the window as the fire engines arrived. “Someone shouted for me not to jump, so I ran outside as quickly as I could.” The resident, who has lived in the house for over a year, added that conditions for occupants were terrible. He said: “There is no security in this house at all. The front door is always open and I never know who is supposed to be living here. People just walk in and out and we have had gangs, people coming in to take drugs and prostitutes here.” And a neighbour of the house, Helen Hodder, said: “This was a timebomb waiting to go off. There is often trouble at the house, the front door is never closed.” Watch manager Karl Hindhaugh, based at Colby Court fire station, said: “The fire started in a ground floor bedroom. Firefighters from Colby Court and West Denton attended the scene and were there for about an hour and a half. “The door to the bedroom was left open, which allowed the smoke to go up the stairs. It meant a man and a woman in the bedroom above could not get down the stairs and had to climb onto the bay window roof. They were then rescued by firefighters using a ladder. “One other person was led to safety from the third floor by officers using breathing apparatus.” A spokesman for Angel Group, which owns the house said: “The fire was confined to one room only, that room has since been repaired. We have had some difficulties with anti-social behaviour at this property. “The property is visited at least twice every day by property managers. We cannot comment further at this time as there are ongoing investigations as to the cause of the fire.” A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: ” Officers are currently investigating the cause of the blaze. We can’t comment on any suggestions of gang-related violence.” This was a timebomb waiting to go off. There is often trouble at the house