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Stratford churches targeted in spate of arson attacks

PUBLISHED: 18:05 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:46 21 June 2019

While the door was destroyed, there was no other damage from the fire. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

While the door was destroyed, there was no other damage from the fire. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

Archant

A church in Stratford was targeted three times within 24 hours during a spate of brazen arson attacks.

The front entrance to St Matthew’s Church in West Ham has been boarded up until the destroyed door is replaced. Picture: Andrew Brookes.The front entrance to St Matthew’s Church in West Ham has been boarded up until the destroyed door is replaced. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

St John's Church on Stratford Broadway, St Matthew's Church in Dyson Road, Stratford, and Cann Hall Methodist Church in Leytonstone all had doors damaged in attempts to set them alight over the last two nights.

Each church has also been vandalised with similar anti-religion messaging, such as pentagrams and '666', scratched or drawn on doors.

There was also a fire outside a church in Ramsay Road, Leytonstone, last night (Wednesday), with graffiti again found on the door.

An attempt to set fire to a door at St John's some time on Tuesday night caused minor damage, with paper and cardboard seemingly use to ignite it.

The door on the Vaughan Road side of St Matthew’s was set alight after two previous arson attempts at another entrance. Picture: Andrew Brookes.The door on the Vaughan Road side of St Matthew’s was set alight after two previous arson attempts at another entrance. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

This followed minor vandalism at the church in recent days in which doors were scratched and external posters were torn down.

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, burned rubbish was discovered outside a door on the Dyson Road side of St John's Church, next to the vicarage, in what appeared to be a similar attack.

Another attempt to set the same door alight was made that evening, shortly before 7.30pm, but while there was minor damage to the door the fire did not take hold.

Hours later, around midnight, an entrance on the Vaughan Road side of St Matthew's was set alight in a similar manner, with the fire destroying the door.

An arson attack around midnight destroyed a door at St Matthew’s Church. Picture: Andrew Brookes.An arson attack around midnight destroyed a door at St Matthew’s Church. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

After three arson attempts within 24 hours, vicar of St Matthew's, the Reverend Christy Asinugo, was worried about the motivation of the attacks.

"It feels like the person hadn't succeeded in what is on his or her mind," she said.

"I thought the first one was just a one off, it didn't bother me so much, but after this I'm really bothered now.

"It's my fear (that they might try again), because we don't know what is on the mind of this person."

Vandals have also defaced doors at the church with graffiti. Picture: Andrew Brookes.Vandals have also defaced doors at the church with graffiti. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

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Meanwhile, temporary fencing is being put up at St John's to protect its doors at night.

Vicar of St John's, the Reverend David Richards, said: "We're taking steps to protect our doors, which we don't like doing because the green space is a wonderful resource for people, so we're hoping the person who did this will be caught as soon as possible.

"Police are investigating and were asking everyone to be vigilant.

An unsuccessful attempt to set a door alight at St John's Church in Stratford caused minor damage. Picture: Andrew Brookes.An unsuccessful attempt to set a door alight at St John's Church in Stratford caused minor damage. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

"We're sure someone would have seen something because it's a very public space, with buses going past every few minutes including night buses."

While St Matthew's is more secluded, Wednesday evening's attack occured in broad daylight and a security light is fitted above the door that was destroyed later that night.

"Whoever it is obviously isn't worried about getting caught," the reverend said.

Rubbish was also set alight at Cann Hall Methodist Church last night (Wednesday).

Doors at St John's Church in Stratford have been vandalised. Picture: Andrew Brookes.Doors at St John's Church in Stratford have been vandalised. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: "We were called to Cann Hall Road in Leytonstone to reports of rubbish alight at 10.08pm.

"The fire was under control by 10.18pm and one fire engine from Stratford fire station attended."

Fire crews were also called to the two fires last night (Wednesday) at St Matthew's.

"We were called to reports of a front door alight at a church on Dyson Road in Stratford at 12.09am," the spokeswoman said.

"The fire was under control by 12.20am and two fire engines from Stratford and Leytonstone fire stations attended."

The brigade was called to the earlier fire at 7.29pm and it was under control by 7.38pm, with one fire engine from the Stratford station attending.

A police spokesman said: "At this early stage in the investigation, the fires are being treated as suspicious and the incidents are being investigated by the North East area's Community Support Unit, who are keeping an open mind as to the motive.

"Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 quoting CAD2459/19JUN or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

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