Cops in arson probe
as meat trailers hit
Nov 12 2002
By The Evening Chronicle
Animal rights activists were today being blamed for a £30,000 arson
attack at a Tyneside factory.
Police probing the
blaze at the Baron of Beef plant first feared Britain's worst serial firestarters
had struck again.
But detectives are
now playing down any link between last night's attack and the unsolved
£17m spate of blazes started across the region.
Instead, it is suspected
animal activists may have torched the two lorry trailers destroyed at
the company's depot on the North Tyneside Industrial Estate.
Company chief Greg
Wallace, 43, said: "I think it is more likely that this was a strike
against the meat industry by extremists. I have had things like dead rats
sent to me in the post."
"They got in
before our security guard came on duty, but I am now electrifying the
fence and getting 24-hour protection.
"This will not
affect our business. We will be back up and running once the police have
carried out their search."
The arsonists crept
into the secure compound and set fire to a refrigerator trailer filled
with meat at around 8.20pm. Flames then spread to another trailer.
Detectives have started
a forensic examination at the scene to find out how the blaze was started.
Det Chief Insp Frank
Gallop, of Wallsend CID, said: "We are conducting a forensic investigation
in daylight, looking at how they got into the compound and examining CCTV
from premises on the industrial estate, as well as the nature of the business."
A team of 15 firefighters
spent two hours putting out the blaze and protecting factory buildings
- some of which contained compressed gas cylinders.
A team of 40 detectives
is working to catch the suspected two-man fire-raising team who target
haulage yards at night, cutting through fencing, smashing cabs with steel
ball bearings, pouring accelerant inside the vehicles, and setting them
A driver at Simpson
Brothers Transport in West Way Industrial Estate, Throckley, nearly died
in an attack on May 7 when he smelled petrol being poured into his cab.
Grainy images of two
men were caught on CCTV after the last blaze at Benfield Motors in Scotswood
Road on May 20.
Truckers and their
families were asked to help police catch the arsonists during an appeal
on BBC's Crimewatch.
Huge damage toll
June 14, 2001. Newcastle
City Council's Cityworks depot, Rothbury Terrace, Heaton. £2 million
damage to 23 refuse collection wagons.
September 8, 2001.
Ten lorries destroyed at the Owen Pugh depot in Cramlington Road, Dudley.
October 21, 2001.
New County Road Surfacing, Penshaw Way, Portobello Industrial Estate in
Birtley. £310,000 damage to six road surfacing vehicles.
November 3, 2001.
Union Trucks on the Camperdown Industrial Estate, Killingworth, destroyed.
15 vehicles and trailers torched, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds
November 4, 2001.
An attack on the Be Modern transport depot on the Bede Industrial Estate
in South Shields. Six fully loaded trucks destroyed, another four damaged,
causing £500,000 damage.
December 16, 2001.
Ten separate blazes in cabs at a lorry park next to the JP Simpson Malting
March 4, 2002. Cityworks
refuse depot in Condercum Road, Benwell, torched. Nine bin wagons damaged
costing £1.5 million damage.
May 7, 2002. Simpson
Brothers Transport, Throckley. Eight trucks damaged, but no fires started.
May 20, 2002. Benfield
Motors on Scotswood Road, Newcastle, suffered more than £300,000
damage when 16 vehicles, including commercial vans, were torched.