Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scene of the Crime

A couple of years ago we were the victims of arson. I was a visiting professor at Manchester University and was staying in an apartment complex in Glossop on the edge of the Peak District. I've stayed the past two nights in the town and walked past the scene of the crime yesterday evening. The place has been rebuilt after an extensive renovation and refit of all 72 apartments. It was kind of strange to be back.

The story in short. A young couple across the hall from us on the top floor had a drunken argument one night. To teach her a lesson the man broke his girlfriend's fingers and tried to throw her off a fourth storey balcony and when that didn't work he set fire to her apartment. We were in the pub at the time and missed all the commotion. When we got back we could see flames through the window from the car park and called the fire brigade. Before I reached the main door to set off the fire alarm it kicked into life. The fire brigade came and put the fire out and we were allowed back into the apartment at about 2am.

At about 7.30am there was heavy hammering on the door. When we opened it there was a fire woman standing there, flames visible through the glass roof behind her. She told us to evacuate the building. We grabbed some clothes and the small rucksacks that had our passports etc in (and thankfully my laptop) and headed out to the car park in our pyjamas. Once outside we got dressed and then watched the whole of the top floor go up in flames and all the floors below get destroyed by thousands of gallons of water.

It turned out that the fire brigade had not got the fire out fully and it had been smouldering above our heads during the night, reigniting in the morning. The complex was an old mill and the old wooden beams were saturated with a couple of centuries of machine oil. We were due to fly back to Ireland for Easter that day in any case, so once it got to around 2pm we headed to the station and went to the airport, checked-in and flew home. We didn't return after that.

It was an unfurnished apartment and since we were on the top floor we lost everything in the place including a load of books and three months worth of my notes (I write in the margins of my books). I also lost all my receipts which meant claiming expenses back from the university was a real chore. It's funny how bureaucracy works - they wouldn't process my claim because I didn't have the receipts even though they knew our apartment had been set on fire! It took weeks to get it sorted.

Anyway, nobody was directly killed in the fire and the arsonist was sent to prison indefinitely for the public's protection with a minimum term of 3 years, and we have an interesting story to tell about a trip that went up in flames - literally.

Here are a couple of links to news stories
BBC News
Glossop Advertiser (about the blaze) and about the arsonists appeal
Fire Inquiry press release
High Peak District Council press releases

1 comment:

Dorte H said...

Some stories are best when it is all over. The idea of fire in a building taller than our house (where we could all jump from the windows if we had to) really scares me.