Cowplain disabled school minibus torched in arson rampage

WRECKED The minibus
WRECKED The minibus
Shonagh Dillon

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A TRANSPORT firm has hit out at arsonists who torched a specially adapted minibus used to take disabled children to school.

The Mercedes minibus – belonging to Pete’s Airlink – was torched in what detectives believe was a four-vehicle rampage across Hampshire and West Sussex.

The attack on the minibus, in Brockenhurst Avenue, Leigh Park, caused upset to the children who are picked up by driver Michael King each morning to go to Rachel Madocks School, in Cowplain.

Mr King said: ‘I’d just finished work and I got out the bus about 10.40pm.

‘I went inside, went to bed and a police officer knocked the door at 12.20am asking me to confirm it was my minibus outside and proceeded to tell me it was on fire.

‘It was destroyed. I was devastated. The kind of people who do things like this are sick. They do not realise the sort of trouble they cause.

‘I pick up children going to Rachel Madocks.

‘Because they are disabled they need a special bus. Because of the nature of their disabilities the children get awfully upset if the drivers change or the bus changes and I’ve been their driver for over two years.

‘We got them to school but it was a major upset for everyone.’

The minibus – which was worth £10,000 – will have to be replaced by the company’s insurers.

On top of that they will have to foot the bill to repair the pavement, part of which melted under the intense heat.

Rev Tim Jessiman, the vicar at Hart Plain Church and a school governor, said: ‘It beggars belief. It’s upsetting, it’s annoying.

‘It’s something we could do without having to replace. The children are going to be adversely affected until it’s replaced.’

Firefighters were called to four separate vehicle blazes in Westbourne and Leigh Park within the space of an hour on Tuesday of last week.

The first was in River Street, Westbourne, where a silver Nissan pick-up truck was on fire at about 11.50pm.

Firefighters put out the flames while another crew went to tackle a second fire further up the road.

A silver Subaru Impreza had been deliberately set alight. Half an hour later a crew from Havant was called to a BMW on fire in High Lawn Way, Leigh Park.

A few minutes later the minibus was set ablaze.

A 24-year-old man from Portsmouth and a 27-year–old man from Southsea were arrested in Dunsbury Way, Leigh Park, on Wednesday,on suspicion of arson.

They have been bailed.