Lancing left reeling after arson attacks

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A PENSIONER recovering from a stroke watched as his car went up in a ball of flames after it was torched by mindless vandals.

Distressed Danny Newman, 72, of Shadwells Court, in Shadwells Road, Lancing, watched as his beloved Hyundai car – something described as his “pride and joy” – went up in a ball of flames.

His flat was also damaged by the fire, with his windows now boarded up.

The fire was one of a spate of arsons, which took place on the Mash Barn Estate last Wednesday, and which saw vulnerable people trapped in their homes, saw two cars destroyed and left residents shaken, angry and demanding answers.

Danny, who is still recovering from a stroke he had three months ago, said: “I had my car for 11 years and it has been a marvellous car.

“When I was told about the fire I was just looking at it and people were telling me to get out.

“The place I came from before I was there for 12 years and I had fights and arguments but this is the most peaceful place I have found in my life.”

Alongside the car fire, three wheelie bins were set alight at Shadwells Court, with the flames from the fires spreading to nearby flats, resulting in an evacuation.

Police have said if the fire service had not turned up when it did, the situation could have ended in tragedy.

Residents at the close-knit sheltered housing, run by Adur District Council, spoke of their fear and disbelief when they looked out of their windows to see the fires and saw a “massive ball of flames” shoot up and damage the balcony, windows and guttering of nearby flats.

Stories have emerged of residents desperately knocking on their neighbours’ doors and windows alerting them to the situation.

Resident Tony Morris, 68, spoke of the moment a group of residents tried to rescue Danny from his ground-floor flat while the car fire raged.

He said: “It was pretty terrifying. We were trying to get Danny out of the window, but fortunately the brigade came in time.”

He said of the fire: “It was just after 11pm and I heard what sounded like firecrackers but they were too loud.

“I came out and it was just a blaze right the way along. I could see three bins were on fire but there were quite high flames, unusually high.

“That is when I noticed a car on fire that was all ablaze. The smoke was absolutely unbelievable.

“Some of our elderly residents, especially in the ground-floor flats, could not get out so had to stay there and wait for the fire brigade to come.”

Two of the recycling bins set alight were near the outside staircases, with one of them very close to a large gas container.

The bins were full of paper as they were due to be collected the following morning.

Fred Easton, 71, lives in the flat next to the gas container and said: “The burning was really bad for breathing and I was closing my windows when I remembered there was a gas pump there.

“If they had thought of putting it over there it could have been really nasty.”

As yet it is not known who caused the fires or why.

PC Emily Beck said: “If the fire service had not arrived when it had, the fire could have ended in tragedy. A full investigation is underway into this serious and dangerous offence.

“I would appeal to anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour around these areas or who has any information to contact police.”

Anyone with information, should call Sussex Police on 101 or anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Questions have been asked as to why the call pulleys installed in all the flats in Shadwells Court in case of an emergency were not working the evening of the fire.

However, Adur District Council, has confirmed the fire damaged the call alarm wires on the outside of the building.