Disgust at Harleston playground fire attack

Police officers and town councillors in Harleston said they feel absolutely disgusted after vandals set fire to a large piece of play equipment on the recreation ground.

Youngsters were left heartbroken this week when they discovered the burnt remains of the 8ft wooden climbing frame, which was installed about seven years ago at a cost of �9,000 after a community fundraising effort.

The emergency services were alerted to the fire, next to the leisure centre off Wilderness Lane, at about 12.30am on Tuesday after the flames were spotted by a passing motorist.

They were quickly put out by the town's fire crew.

Discovered at the bottom of the play equipment were burnt magazine cuttings and a lighter – prompting police officers to believe it was arson.

They have also found a partially burnt white hoody, with a fur lining and a cigarette butt in the pocket, which is being sent off for forensic testing. The partially burnt case of an iPod was also found nearby.

Officers said the jacket is a vital clue in their bid to track down the culprit and have appealed for anyone who recognises it to get in touch.

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PC Tim Tyler, the local community beat officer, said: 'We are certainly linking the jacket to the incident.

'I'm absolutely disgusted by whoever has done this. I witnessed a few very upset children on Tuesday. This is not the sort of thing that happens in Harleston.'

Sue Kuzmic, chairman of Harleston Town Council, said she had 'a lump in my throat' when she found out about the vandalism.

'We are very lucky that he (the passing motorist) saw it because the weather has been so dry it could have spread further,' she said.

'It's not very nice. We had a family up here and a little girl was playing. It's her favourite bit of equipment and she was devastated. That's the people who get hurt. She was only about four and that child is heartbroken because of someone's senseless act of fire and vandalism.'

She added that the council would investigate whether an insurance claim could be submitted for the unsalvageable equipment, otherwise to replace it with a similar structure could now cost about �12,000.

Anyone with information regarding the fire or the jacket should contact PC Tyler at Harleston Police Station on 0845 456 4567.