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Burning rag pushed through widow's letterbox

A 65-year-old widow was forced to flee her smoke-logged home after a late-night arson attack.

Annie Beaney was asleep in bed at her flat in Knights Way, Headcorn, near Maidstone, when a burning rag soaked with some kind of accelerant was pushed through the letter- box of her front door.

Mrs Beaney, who was alone in her home, was woken by her daughter’s Jack Russell terrier, which she had been looking after.

She said: “Jake began barking and I wondered what was the matter, then the smoke alarm went off.”

She discovered the front door mat and door-curtains were on fire and her home was filling with thick black smoke. She fled through the back door, taking Jake with her, and was able to wake her neighbour, Nigel Easterbrook, in the flat above.

Mr Easterbrook phoned the fire brigade, but also tackled the fire with buckets of water and he was able to smother the flames with a rug before firefighters arrived.

Mrs Beaney, whose husband Abraham died only eight months ago, has been left shocked and fearful by the attack.

She said: “I just don’t understand who would do it. I have lived here three years and everyone round here is really friendly. It’s nice here. There’s no problem with any of the youngsters.”

A scenes-of-crime officer who examined Mrs Beaney’s letterbox told her that the fingerprints she discovered where not child-size.

The incident comes just three weeks after police released from bail their only suspect following a string of arson attacks in the village in December and January this year.

Although police are not connecting the crimes, Mrs Beaney was herself one of the first victims of the earlier arson attacks.

She said: “In November last year, someone set fire to my rubbish bin. We never found out who it was, or why. It’s very frightening.”

Police spokeswoman Gianna Polero said: “At the moment we are treating this incident as an isolated attack. But we would be pleased to hear from anyone with any information related to the offence.”

Anyone who knows anything about the incident which happened at 12.20am on Monday, Seeptember 5, is asked to ring police on 01622 608189.

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