Four injured in London house fire as police probe 'anti-Semitic' hate crime

21 March 2024, 12:19 | Updated: 21 March 2024, 13:56

A man in his 60s was arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life
A man in his 60s was arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life. Picture: James Johnson/Twitter

By Flaminia Luck

Police have launched an investigation into a large fire started deliberately at a house in east London and whether it was an anti-Semitic hate crime.

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Officers responded to reports of the blaze at an address in Newick Road, Hackney, shortly before 12.45pm on Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Police said a man arrested near the scene made threatening and "allegedly anti-Semitic" comments when detained.

It is believed the fire was started deliberately, the force added.

The ground and first floors of the three-storey house were destroyed by the fire
The ground and first floors of the three-storey house were destroyed by the fire. Picture: LBC

A man in his 60s who suffered minor injuries from the fire was arrested shortly afterwards on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life, the Met said.

He is currently being treated in hospital for his injuries.

Four other people were also injured and taken to hospital, but none are in a life-threatening condition.

London Fire Brigade said eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters tackled the blaze, which left the ground and first floors of the three-storey house destroyed.

Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters tackled the fire on Newick Road in Hackney
Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters tackled the fire on Newick Road in Hackney. Picture: London Fire Brigade

Met Detective Chief Superintendent James Conway said: "On his arrest the man made a number of threatening comments, some of which were allegedly antisemitic.

"We take instances of antisemitism extremely seriously and for this reason we're investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.

"Undoubtedly this will be extremely concerning news for our Jewish communities in Hackney and beyond, and I and my officers will be engaging with partners including the Community Safety Trust and the Shomrim to answer their questions and listen to their views.

Read more: London is 'the most anti-Semitic city in the West', Israeli minister claims

"Whilst the investigation will continue to explore the motivation for this offence, we believe at this stage that this was centred on a localised housing-related issue.

"We have no indication, at this very early stage, that the motivation was connected with any specific local or global events."

Mr Conway said the Met had a robust policing plan in place, including increased patrols and enhanced police visibility, as Jewish communities begin celebrations for the Purim holiday period.

'Extremely worrying'

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Over the past few months, we have seen an extremely worrying surge in antisemitic violence, from beatings to knife-wielding.

"This suspected arson attack, if it had an antisemitic motivation, takes our society to a whole new level of hate.

"Was it not enough that Jews may, judging from the evidence, have been burned alive by Hamas on 7th October?

"We cannot sit by as that grotesque violence is potentially mimicked by Jew-haters in the UK.

"We thank the first-responders and medical practitioners for bringing the fire under control and treating the wounded, and commend the police for a swift arrest.

They added: "Justice must now be done.”

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Diane Abbott, HP for Hackney North, said it was a "truly dreadful incident".

"The police must be allowed to investigate the incident fully. But if it is proven to be an antisemitic attack it should be completely condemned.

"There is no place for antisemitism in our community," she added.

Nick Ferrari lists some of the issues facing British Jews in 2024.

On Thursday, Israeli government minister said London the most anti-Semitic Western city.

Amichai Chikli said the capital was no longer safe for many Jewish people.

Anti-Semitism in the UK has increased markedly since Hamas' attacks on Israel on October 7, and the subsequent war in Gaza.

However, London mayor Sadiq Khan and some Jewish leaders have insisted the city is not a "no-go zone" for Jewish people, despite the anti-Semitism.

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