Family escape from their home after fire started below by arson as part of a string of attacks in Harborough district village

Brooke House residential care home. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER
Brooke House residential care home. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER

A family of four, including two young children, had to make a midnight escape when a fire started by an arsonist seriously damaged their village flat.

The arsonist started a fire in bins and vehicles beneath the McNally family's coach house style flat, in one a series of three linked arsons in the village of Husbands Bosworth, near Market Harborough.

The van in Church Street. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER

The van in Church Street. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER

The McNally family escaped from their flat in Mowsley Court at around midnight, as explosions rang out from two blazing vehicles directly beneath their apartment. Their flat was also seriously damaged in the fire.

"My husband woke up just before midnight and saw flames," said Penny McNally (34). "We could hear the fire too - it sounded like fireworks going off around us.

"We literally just ran out with our young children and then knocked on all the neighbours' doors to wake them up. I'm just thankful that the kids are fine."

She said the fire service were at the scene in about 15 minutes.

The scene outside the flat in Mowsley Court. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER

The scene outside the flat in Mowsley Court. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER

Penny, husband Tom (38) and their children aged five and one were not injured in the fire. Residents in the linked flats around the normally peaceful court also escaped unhurt

Police are now investigating the fire as the most serious of three arsons in Husbands Bosworth on the same night - Wednesday, August 29 / Thursday, August 30. They believe that the incidents are linked.

Villagers told the Mail they thought the three arson attacks were all the work of one man, not from the village.

The first arson report, made shortly after 11pm on Wednesday night, involved waste bins being set on fire outside Brooke House residential care home in Bell Lane in the village.

Mowsley Court. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER

Mowsley Court. PHOTO: ANDREW CARPENTER

Brooke House is home to around 30 elderly residents, said care home manager Michelle Hood.

A further arson report followed, involving two vehicles and a number of wheelie bins set alight in Mowsley Court, at the junction of Honeypot Lane and Mowsley Road, just before midnight. This was the blaze that severely damaged the McNallys' apartment.

A short time later it was reported that a van had been set alight in Church Street, just around the corner from Mowsley Court.

The van was badly damaged. Resident Nick Bradshaw, whose house is a pavement's width from the burnt-out van, said it was fortunate the vehicle did not explode.

On Thursday, police were knocking on doors and interviewing residents across the village. The three fire-damaged areas were taped off, with a police van or car at each site.

Detective Constable Chantel Booth, the investigating officer, said: “We believe that these incidents are linked to one another and our enquiries are continuing.

“I’m particularly keen to speak to anyone who was in either Bell Lane, Mowsley Road or Church Street either on Wednesday night or in the early hours of Thursday morning and who saw or heard anyone acting in a suspicious manner.

“Whether you saw something yourself, or you have CCTV or dashcam footage that has picked anything up, I’d like to speak to you.”

A 35-year-old man from Gloucestershire has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life. He remains in custody.

Valerie Clancy, who is the landlord of the damaged Mowsley Court flat, said: "Penny (McNally) rang me at 7am this morning to tell me what had happened. We were just extremely relieved that they all got out safely."

Mowsley Court neighbour Frank Harper (81) said: "I was fast asleep and awakened by a great big crash. I was worried for the family in the flat and also because the fire was very near me. I spent the rest of the evening outside, with everyone else from these flats."

Anyone with information should call DC 4637 Booth on 101, quoting incident 17 of 30 August.