Police probe sighting of man running from Joanna’s before fire

HOME Malcolm Clarke was evacuated from his Alhambra Road home for 11 days.    Picture: Sarah Standing (113007-1186)
HOME Malcolm Clarke was evacuated from his Alhambra Road home for 11 days. Picture: Sarah Standing (113007-1186)

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POLICE are probing claims a man was seen emerging from derelict Joanna’s nightclub days before it was ravaged by fire.

Malcolm Clarke spotted the suspicious man – dressed all in black and wearing a backpack – climbing over a 12ft metal fence onto nearby Alhambra Road in Southsea three days before the fire.

UP IN SMOKE The blaze at Joanna's on August 9

UP IN SMOKE The blaze at Joanna's on August 9

Mr Clarke said: ‘Somebody came over the fence when I was working on the intercom outside.

‘We exchanged words and he walked straight past me.’

Police are also looking at a report that windows were smashed at derelict Joanna’s building on the morning of the blaze.

Mr Clarke lives in Alhambra Road and was evacuated from his home for 11 days after the blaze on South Parade.

He returned home on Saturday to discover thieves had tried to burgle his flat.

The 62-year-old said: ‘I’m just getting over it. It’s all a bit shocking.

‘Then to come back home and find somebody’s tried to get in as well, I don’t need it, not at my time of life. I’m too old for all this.’

As reported in The News, the stretch of South Parade in front of the building was reopened on Monday – almost two weeks after the blaze on August 9.

But last night the street was still shut at its junction with Alhambra Road while contractors continued to demolish the building.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: ‘Police are grateful for all the information provided by members of the public during this investigation so far. Detectives are keeping an open mind about how this fire started. We must explore and examine every line of inquiry thoroughly, and this means a criminal motive and arson cannot be ruled out. All the information we have received will be assessed and reviewed so decisions can be taken about lines of inquiry in the future.’

A 17-year-old Portsmouth boy arrested on suspicion of arson on August 13 was later released without charge.

Call Portsmouth CID with information on (023) 9289 1783 quoting Operation Thaxted or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.