Residents have revealed a fire – deliberately lit outside a charity shop in Horncastle – could have cost the lives of a couple and their baby.
The fire, outside the Red Cross shop in North Street, was part of a night of anti-social behaviour in the town last Monday (January 5).
The Red Cross is facing a repair bill running into hundreds of pounds after the fire – in a wheelie bin – damaged the front of the shop and a window.
The News can reveal a young couple and their baby – born shortly before Christmas – were asleep in a flat immediately above the blaze.
Thanks to the prompt action of Horncastle’s retained fire crew, the fire was extinguished before it could spread.
However, one resident– who did not want to be identified – told the News: “The damage might not look much but it could have been a lot worse.
“If the fire brigade hadn’t got there so quickly, it could have been a lot worse.
“I understand the couple in the flat didn’t even know about the fire, until they saw blue lights flashing outside.
“I’m sure there are people saying this was ‘just vandalism’ but I hope the idiots responsible realise they could have killed someone.”
Staff at the charity shop have indicated the front of the building will have to be re-painted and the window replaced. Money will come from the shop’s annual budget.
The remains of the burned out wheelie bin were still waiting to be collected, three days after the blaze. Again, the shop will have to fund a replacement bin.
Residents claim other fires were lit in the town on the same night although police say ‘only’ the charity shop blaze has been reported.
However, police are investigating several other incidents on the same evening including:
•A smashed rear window of a car parked on Hodson Green (incident number 57 of 6 January)
•A firecracker thrown at a takeaway in High Street (no. 491 of 6 January)
•Criminal damage in Ingram Row when the front window of a property was broken. (no 488 of 6 January)
All the offences took place between 11pm and 11.30pm and police have indicated a gang of youths could be responsible.
With regard to the latter incident, police said: “A loud bang was heard and a neighbour saw three young males aged about 15, wearing dark clothing, running away from the property.”
Police have offered reassurance to residents and pointed out Horncastle is one of the safest towns in the county.
Nevertheless, the incidents have sparked concerns about what people claim is ‘a rise in crime’ recently.
A 74-year-old woman, who lives near Ingram Row, says she and her elderly friends are worried about ASB.
She said: “I heard noises that night but I thought it was kids’ messing about, even though it was after 11.
“I didn’t know a house window had been broken.
“This sort of thing does seem to be getting worse.
“A lot of older people don’t go out in the dark.
“I get kids knocking on my bedroom window at night. It’s downstairs and it’s frightening.
“Last year, I was walking home and only a friend stopped some youngsters attacking me. They beat him up.”
“They (kids) need a clip around the ear but if they’re caught, they’ll probably get a free holiday.
“What’s wrong with people these days?”
There were claims on social media of other incidents on that Monday evening including fireworks being let off near Stanhope Hall.
Many residents have raised concerns about police resources.
Mayor Coun Fiona Martin said she shared those concerns and called on the government to provide more funding.
She said: “The police we do have do a very good job but there aren’t enough of them.
“Twenty-odd years ago, I was on the ‘old’ Police Authority and the service was under-funded then.
“It is even worse now and while I accept people are trying to do something about it, we deserve a fairer funding for Lincolnshire in line with other rural police forces.”
Coun Martin said she was ‘saddened’ by what appeared to be an increase in ASB.
She said: “People might say it is nothing serious but how does the elderly man whose window was broken feel? Image the impact it has had on him.
“If it is young people involved, I hope they are not from Horncastle because in general, they are much more community minded and very positive.
“Of course, this isn’t just happening in our town but people are worried – especially when you hear how serious the fire outside the charity shop could have been.
“Why anyone needs to do this type of thing is beyond me. I’m saddened by it all and my best wishes go those affected. I hope the community comes forward with information about who is responsible.
“People must know who they are.”
People in Horncastle have called for ‘more bobbies on the beat’ and tougher court action against offenders .
They also believe parents should be held to account for the behaviour of their children.
Martin Henderson (46) said: “My mother is 87 and lives in Horncastle and we worry about her every day.
“We keep reading and hearing Horncastle is safe and if you believe some people, there is no problem with vandalism.
“Clearly, that’s not the case.
“We need more police on the beat – not just sat behind desks or pointing speed guns at cars.”
Andrew Jenkins added: “This anti social behaviour is getting worse and a lot of it isn’t reported.
“The louts want locking up.
“We all know warnings are issued but what good do they do?
“Courts are a joke. The whole (justice) system needs looking at.”
Jenny Metcalfe (64) agreed ASB and other crimes had increased in the town recently.
She said: “There have been a lot of problems – like the graffiti and all that with drugs.
“The police do a good job but we only ever see PCSOs. What about other officers?
“Probably the town isn’t as bad as some other places but that’s not the point.
“We all pay the same towards policing.”
Trevor Johnson (71) said parents should take more responsibility.
He added: “You see the gangs of youngsters hanging around at all times of night.
“Not all of them are causing trouble but some are up to no good.
“If you talk to them, all you get is abuse.
“What were they thinking, lighting fires outside a shop?
“In fact, if it is school kids, what were they doing out at 11 o’clock at night? You have got to question the parents.
“Take actions against the kids but if you fined parents as well it would soon stop.”
Alison Bridge said: “You don’t feel safe walking in some places – especially with the street lights switched off.
“A couple of years ago, I’d walk my dog near Prospect Street in an evening – but not now.”
Ian Clarke (34) added: “There’s a lot more vandalism in Horncastle.
“There are places where kids 12 and 13 are drinking.
“I know the police are stretched but when you hear about old folk being traumatised by something chucked through their window, its time to do something.
“If we saw more bobbies on the streets, it would be a start.”
There was another outbreak of anti social behaviour (ASB) in Horncastle last Sunday night (Jan 12).
Officers on patrol discovered a series of criminal damage offences and other ASB.
They included the tyres on two vehicles being punctured, flowerpots damaged and bins knocked over.
Police say there might have been more offences committed. They are keen to hear from witnesses.
Police have confirmed one person was arrested on Sunday night.
Sgt Andrew Price, a Wolds Response Officer, said: “I hope the arrest will bring this recent spate of offences to an end.
“However, I would like to ask that if issues continue, we are keen to be informed of incidents as soon as possible - please contact 101, or 999.
“We are keen to speak with any witnesses, or anyone with CCTV cameras, who may have captured footage of the offenders.”
Sgt Price said the offences took place ‘between approximately 11pm and midnight’ .
He added they had taken place in North Street , East Street, Queen Street, Foundry Street, Banks Street and Tennyson Gardens.
• If you witnessed any of this activity, or have any information, call 101 with reference number 60 of 13 January