Published: 08:00, 03 March 2017
| Updated: 08:17, 03 March 2017
The owner of a country estate says police must now take attacks on his property seriously after a double decker bus was destroyed by fire.
Tom Lewis, 60, the owner of Morghew Park Estate in Tenterden says sheer chance led to the discovery of the fireball on the bus, which was used as overflow office space.
The arson attack on the bus, which was torched in a small courtyard to the rear of the estate office, was discovered by arable manager Piers Carey at 5am.
Mr Lewis said: “We were very lucky. The fire spread rapidly from the burning bus to an outside stand-alone freezer which in turn is only about 10ft from one corner of the estate office.
“Had Piers Carey not chosen that morning to make an early start on a journey up to East Anglia, we would have lost the estate office, the Potato Shop honesty stall, as well as the small packing facility for our mail-order exotic potato business.”
The fire is being treated as suspected arson and it follows an attack in the same area last September, where a small bore rifle was used to shoot out security lighting illuminating the courtyard.
“Whoever was responsible for this either contemplated or intended massive damage to the estate’s business,” said Mr Lewis.
“Perhaps the most worrying aspect of all this is that this is the second recent incidence of serious criminality in our tiny office yard, which measures just 22m x 16m.”
Mr Lewis added that police did not carry out ballistic tests on the two “projectiles” that had taken out the light last autumn.
“I was disappointed that police did not take more interest in the fact that someone was marauding around the estate with a rifle,” he said.
The F-reg Volvo bus was gutted in the blaze, which was tackled by two fire engines from Tenterden and Headcorn.
Office windows were cracked by the intense heat and a chiller unit destroyed. In total Mr Lewis estimates that around £10,000 damage was caused.
The bus was bought from a commercial operator last year after a planning application to extend the estate office was refused.
The office area employs around a dozen full-time members of staff, with more than 50 casual employees working at Morghew at various points in the year.
“We nearly lost the beating heart of our business,” said Mr Lewis.
“Although we are insured if the fire had spread it would have devastated our business and we would have struggled to rebuild and re-equip it.”
“This is the second worrying incident to have taken place in a very small part of the yard in just six months. It has left everyone here feeling shaken.”
In a statement police said inquiries were ongoing into the fire: “Officers are looking into viewing CCTV footage from neighbouring properties.
As for the rifle damage, the spokesman said: “Officers carried out a number of inquiries but no forensic opportunities were identified in the incident on September 21, 2016. Should further information come to light officers will follow up those lines of inquiries.”
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