ARSON ATTACK ON HUNT SUPPLIER
Animal rights activists look to be the prime suspects following
a night of fires and desecration in Stocking Pelham.
was scrawled in red paint over the village church and a nearby animal
feed business _ which supplies the Puckeridge Hunt _ was razed to
the ground in a £250,000 suspect blaze during the early hours
Police and fire
experts have launched an inquiry into what happened just days after
the Puckeridge Hunt's Boxing Day meet at Brent Pelham. "It's
being treated as suspicious at this stage," said a Herts police
spokeswoman. "We are investigating a possible link with an
anti-hunt slogan that was daubed on a nearby church."
services were alerted about 4am as the fierce fire raged through
an historic Grade 2 listed timber barn housing the feed business
plus adjoining buildings at Stocking Pelham Hall.
It was just
70/80 yds (64/73m) from the family homes of Edward Hitchcock and
his father, Arnold.
was extraordinary, you could not get within 50ft of the building,
it was ablaze from end to end," said Mr Hitchcock jnr. There
was nothing firefighters could do to save the 1828 barn or lean-tos.
"Everything that was associated with the animal feed business
was in that barn and was lost," he said.
Tiggy the farm's
tabby cat has not been seen since.
The fire was
discovered by Mr Hitchcock snr at about 3.45am. He heard a noise,
looked out and saw the building burning.
sifted through debris, Edward said: "We do supply the hunt
yard with horse feed and tenants on some of our land are one of
it was a case of mistaken identity or not, I don't know. As far
as damage to the hunt, it has done none.
going to be an arsonist's attack, the obvious place would be to
walk past the church to get to the barn."
the church steps was found by someone going to a service on Sunday
morning. The paint was still wet.
spokesman for the Puckeridge Hunt, was yesterday awaiting information
from police. He did say the hunt had not had any trouble with saboteurs
for nearly two years.
* This year's
Boxing Day hunt was widely expected to be the last traditional such
event. There were 1,000 followers at Puckeridge's, and an estimated
200 at Essex Hunt's meet at Matching Green, said its chairman Michael
Mr Herbert has
called on MP Sir Alan Haselhurst to vote against the bill to regulate
hunting, which will ban the pursuit of stags and competitive hare
coursing on the grounds that they are cruel. He said that the bill
was a "fudge" and routed in political expediency.
Alliance claims support remains staunch for hunting in East Herts