Arsonists put listed building at risk

The Oxford Times: Postmaster Sri Sathiapal with some of the damage Buy this photo » Postmaster Sri Sathiapal with some of the damage

AN ARSON attack could have seen a Grade II-listed village post office near Oxford “go up in flames” if churchgoers had not stepped in to help.

Eight plastic crates were doused in a flammable liquid and set alight outside Cumnor Village Stores shortly after midday on Sunday, according to postmaster Sri Sathiapal.

He said if it was not for passers-by who called the fire brigade, his High Street store could have been burned to the ground.

The shop owner said two cyclists and some of the congregation leaving the church service spotted the blaze and poured water on it.

Mr Sathiapal added: “If they hadn’t come, this Grade II-listed building would have been burnt to the ground. We were lucky.”

The 49-year-old who lives in High Wycombe, has been postmaster at the store for four years but bought the shop outright last month. It was shut on Sunday but Mr Sathiapal said: “The worrying part was the time of the day.

“If they could do it at that time they could do much more damage at night.

“It was lucky that someone saw it and put the fire out. Otherwise the whole place would have gone up.”

The crates, used to deliver bread, were destroyed, with burn marks visible on the ground outside the store.Police say they are treating the incident as a suspected arson.

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Mr Sathiapal said a firefighter had told him the crates must have been covered with a flammable liquid like petrol, adding: “They wouldn’t normally burn like that.

“These plastics are not normally easy to burn. They are quite thick.”

He added: “You couldn’t even see the crates as they were all burnt to the ground.”

Oxfordshire Fire Service spokesman Marcus Mabberley said two fire engines were sent to the scene. But he could not confirm if petrol or another accelerant was used in the attack.

He said: “This incident related to a piece of rubbish that was on fire.

“It was partially extinguished when the Fire and Rescue Service arrived on scene. Firefighters then fully extinguished the fire.”

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