Hackney house fire ‘started deliberately’ as man in his 60s arrested

By Staff

A serious fire in East London is believed to have been started deliberately, and with the intent to endanger life, the Metropolitan Police have said. A fire broke out at a property in Clapton shortly before 1pm on Wednesday, March 20, and emergency services rushed to the scene, including the London Air Ambulance.

Around 60 firefighters were needed to tackle the blaze at the two-storey home in Hackney. Most of the home was in flames with thick dark smoke seen for miles.

Four people were injured as a result of the fire, the Metropolitan Police have now said. These were residents of homes neighbouring the house on fire, and a passer-by. None are in a life-threatening condition, the police have confirmed.

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A man in his 60s has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life. He was arrested near the scene and was also injured in the blaze. He is being treated for minor injuries in hospital.

Potential hate crime

When the man was arrested, he made several threatening comments, including some that were allegedly antisemitic. The Metropolitan Police are now treating the incident as a potential hate crime.

Detective Chief Superintendent James Conway, responsible for policing in Hackney, said: “We take instances of antisemitism extremely seriously and for this reason we’re investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.

“Undoubtedly this will be extremely concerning news for our Jewish communities in Hackney and beyond, and I and my officers will be engaging with partners including the Community Safety Trust and the Shomrim, to answer their questions and listen to their views.

“Whilst the investigation will continue to explore the motivation for this offence, we believe at this stage that this was centred on a localised housing-related issue. We have no indication, at this very early stage, that the motivation was connected with any specific local or global events.

“I know our Jewish communities are about to begin celebrations for Purim, and we have a robust policing plan in place, including increased patrols and enhanced police visibility, to ensure the festivities can be enjoyed safely and securely.”

‘I heard a big boom’

Scarlett Benson, 35, was sitting nearby when the fire broke out. She said: “I was sitting and I could see the back of the building, and suddenly I saw smoke and then heard this big boom. And I spoke with my friend and I said, ’that doesn’t look like a bonfire does it’?

“And so we ran over and then people started leaving the houses, a lady was running out with her cat in a bag and with no shoes on the rent.”

She added: “The windows of the house had been like blown across the side of the street. And the front door was open and I’m assuming it had kind of blown open.”

The Met say at this stage there is no evidence the incident was terrorism-related. Officers and detectives are now appealing for information about the incident.

They say: “If you have information that can help police, call 101 or post @MetCC ref CAD 3285/20Mar.”

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