‘Mindless’ arson attack will cost town council hundreds

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Fire damage from an arson attack in Halstead is likely to run into hundreds of pounds, while police admit they stand little chance of catching those responsible.

The public toilets in Kings Road had to be closed after they were set alight overnight between April 5 and 6.

The fire, which is believed to have been started in a bin in the women’s toilet, caused extensive smoke damage.

Halstead town clerk Mike Murkin, who is organising the repair work, said that current estimates put repair costs at £660 but said this could rise if appliances, such as hand dryers, need to be repaired or replaced.

This, Mr Murkin believes, could leave the council with an insurance claim of up to £800.

The authority will have to pay a £100 excess on the claim, and Mr Murkin said there was the risk this could push up the council’s current £6,500-a-year insurance premium.

“It’s just mindless vandalism,” said Mr Murkin. “It clearly hasn’t been done by accident, otherwise someone would have raised the alarm and tried to put it out.

“We believe someone deliberately started it in a sanitary bin – it has been completely melted.”

Mr Murkin called on the culprits to consider their actions and the affect it has on other people.

“One of two public toilets in Kings Road are now out of action so people can’t use them,” he said.

The unisex and disabled toilets in Kings Road were undamaged in the blaze and have since been reopened after originally being closed.

The council has contacted the police, but Mr Murkin said it was his understanding that officers would be unable to take action over the attack as there was no evidence for use in any criminal prosecution.

Potential CCTV footage from a nearby garage has also been deemed too far away to be of any use.

Police, nevertheless, are asking for anybody who witnessed, or knows anything about, the arson attack to come forward.

Contact Pc Hayley Cawston at Braintree Police Station on 101.