Police hunt arsonist in flats blaze

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POLICE are investigating an arson on a block of seafront flats – just a few doors from where two men died in an arson attack seven years ago.

The property in Norfolk Crescent, Hayling Island, was targeted on Tuesday night when arsonists got into the building and set fire to a storeroom. It happened just after 11pm and about 10 people were evacuated from the building within minutes of the fire alarms going off.

Firefighters quickly put out the blaze, which was confined to the storeroom on the second floor of number 51.

The flats have been plagued by crime and in 2004 Tony Handley and Nigel Claridge died when a blaze ripped through their flat at number 39, which was then owned by notorious landlord Christopher Mincham.

Mincham was blasted by the coroner at the inquest into their deaths because the deathtrap property did not even have fire alarms.

Police believe it was arson but no-one has ever been charged over their deaths.

Julian Clokie, the owner of number 51 has spent thousands of pounds on fire alarms and fire-proof doors for his five buildings in the crescent.

The properties’ caretaker – who did not want to be named – spoke on behalf of Mr Clokie.

He said: ‘We don’t know who is responsible for this but obviously we’re very concerned.

‘These are multi-occupancy flats so the front doors were always open.

‘We’ve changed our minds on that now and are putting locks on so that people can’t just walk in off the street.

‘Everybody knows we have an interesting collection of people living here but I have to say a lot of the trouble comes from outside.’

Following the blaze police from the Arson Task Force arrested a 50-year-old man on suspicion of arson but he was released without charge.

Anyone with information can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.