Early-hours Axminster cafe arson attack sparks police investigation and appeal for witnesses

Police are appealing for witnesses and information after an arson attack to a café in Axminster in the early hours of Monday morning (October 19).

Axminster Arts Café Bar, in the Old Courthouse, in Church Street, was targeted at around 1.30am when a window was smashed and a fire deliberately started in the café.

The café owners said they were ‘absolutely devasted’ by the blaze, which ‘caused considerable damage’ to the premises.

Fire crews from Axminster, Colyton and Charmouth were called to the café when a neighbour raised the alarm after smelling smoke.

The café owners broke the news to customers, posting a message on social media.

It said: “It is with extreme sadness that we found out this morning a fire started in the cafe in the night and caused considerable damage. Thankfully no one was hurt.

“We are working with the police and fire service to ascertain the cause, and looking at how we can restore the cafe so we can get it back up and running as soon as possible. We will keep you updated as to when that will be.

“We are absolutely devastated.”

Police investigating the early-hours arson attack and burglary want to hear from anyone who may have information, or saw someone acting suspiciously in the area at the time of the crimes.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokeswoman said: “Police are treating a fire at Axminster Arts on Church Street, which occurred at around 1.30am this morning, as arson.

“A window was smashed to gain entry to the facility and a fire appears to have originated in the café.

“Any witnesses or anyone with any information which could assist the police investigation is asked to contact police.”

Firefighters wore breathing apparatus and used two hose reels jets and a covering jet to knock down the flames and a ventilation fan to clear smoke from the building.

The fire service said the blaze left 25 per cent damage while smoke destroyed 90 per cent of the art café and shop.

A Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) spokesperson said: “Two fire appliances from Axminster and Colyton attended a commercial property after a call from a neighbour stating the fire alarm was sounding and they could smell burning.

“Crews arrived and confirmed there was a fire in the kitchen of the ground floor property and also needed to check another commercial property.

“The two-storey building measured thirty metres by ten metres and consisted of a retail shop and café.

“The fire was in the ground floor kitchen of the café.”

The fire service said crews wore six breathing apparatus, used two hose reel jets, a covering jet, triple extension ladder, small tools, thermal imaging camera and positive pressure ventilation fan while tackling the blaze.

Some 25 per cent of the café was fire damaged, said the fire service, and 90 per cent smoke damage to both properties.

Witnesses or anyone with any information to help the police investigation is asked to call 101 or email 101@dc.police.uk quoting log 60, 19/10/20, and crime reference CR/088123/20 – burglary, and CR/088120/20 – arson.

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