Detectives ‘keeping open mind’ after two Derby school fires started deliberately

Damage from a blaze at St Mary’s School in Darley Abbey, Derbyshire
Damage from a blaze at St Mary’s School in Darley Abbey, Derbyshire - (Copyright PA Media)
17:15pm, Fri 09 Oct 2020
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Detectives are “keeping an open mind” as to whether two arson attacks on schools in Derbyshire were linked.

Derbyshire Police confirmed on Friday that the blaze at St Mary’s Catholic Voluntary Academy in Darley Abbey on October 3 was started deliberately.

The news comes after police said a separate fire at Ravensdale Infant School in Mickleover is also being treated as arson.

Ravensdale Infant School fire - (Copyright PA Media)

The force said there is no evidence to link the two fires “at this time”.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service (DFRS) was first called to the Darley Abbey school at 5.24am on Saturday.

DFRS said the school was destroyed in the blaze.

Firefighters were then called less than 48 hours later to the incident at Ravensdale Infant School at 1.38am on Monday.

Derbyshire Police said there was currently no evidence to link the two fires - (Copyright PA Media)

The fire service said the blaze had caused “extensive damage” to the Mickleover school.

Superintendent Sarah McAughtrie said: “I am keenly aware we are nearly a week on from this distressing incident for the pupils, teachers and community of Darley Abbey.

“The news that the fire was caused deliberately is understandably shocking and I share that sense of bewilderment as to why someone would carry out such an act.

“However, the strength and resolve that has been seen in the last week has been truly heartening and shows the best side of our communities.”

Detectives are keeping an open mind as to whether the two fires are linked - (Copyright PA Media)

Superintendent McAughtrie added: “Detectives have been working hard to find evidence in each case and we are keeping an open mind to the potential that they are linked.

“As I said earlier in the week there are people in our city who have information about these incidents that will be able to assist officers in their enquiries and I would urge them to come forward using any of the below methods.”

Speaking following the conclusion of the fire investigation, Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer Gavin Tomlinson said: “The last week has seen two devastating fires at schools in the heart of our communities.

“I am angered to hear that both fires were started deliberately. Unnecessary distress has been imposed on the children attending those schools, their parents and the teaching staff who work tirelessly to provide our children with the education they are entitled to.

“I am equally angered that these fires happened when there is a simple fire safety solution that would prevent, or reduce such devastation which causes huge emotional and economic loss.”

Mr Tomlinson added: “Alongside the National Fire Chiefs Council I will continue to lobby government to call for a change to fire safety legislation for schools – to mandate that sprinklers will be fitted in all new and refurbished schools. This would bring England in line with Scotland and Wales.

“Sadly my campaign for a change in legislation can’t alter what has happened to the communities affected by the fires at St Mary’s and Ravensdale Infant Schools and similarly at Harrington School, Long Eaton in May, but I can assure everyone that I will do everything within my power to prevent other schools being affected in this way.”

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