'Scariest night of my life': Dunedin arson victim

A Dunedin man awoke to banging on his door and the sight of an orange glow during the most terrifying night of his life.

Steve McLeod, his partner and 12-year-old son were sleeping in their Richardson St home late on Saturday when they were startled by a knock on the door.

It was a police officer telling him his house was on fire and to get out.

‘‘It burnt a hole right through the wall,’’ he said.

‘‘It was the scariest thing I have ever seen.

Police believe the fire was started deliberately in a wheelie bin outside the residence and spread to its exterior weather-boards.

It was the fourth arson in 11 days in the wider South Dunedin area following three vehicle fires the week before.

A police unit was only in the area because of concerns about a serial arsonist.

‘‘That officer completely saved my house,’’ Mr McLeod said.

‘‘The cop was great.’’

Mr McLeod said the damage to the house could be fixed and they were insured, but the effect on his family was profound.

‘‘It was absolutely terrifying,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m still shaken.

‘‘I still haven’t caught up on sleep properly.

‘‘I would feel better if they were caught.’’

After the officer woke him he opened the door to his house’s office.

‘‘It was fair going,’’ he said.

‘‘I could see smoke coming up the walls.

‘‘That [bathroom window] was just orange.

‘‘It was the scariest night of my life.’’

The house had two fire alarms in the hallway which had not activated by the time police arrived and Mr McLeod subsequently bought $200 worth of alarms and installed them in every room.

The wheelie bin in which the fire was started was destroyed.

Detective Sergeant Chris Henderson asked residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

The Richardson St house fire followed two cars being broken into and torched overnight on April 8, in Jackson and Bird Sts, and a commercial bus being set alight outside the nearby Ocean Beach Hotel, in Prince Albert Rd, on April 5.

Police believed the three vehicle fires were linked and the same person could be behind all four arsons.

- Dunedin police (03) 471-4800, Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.

 - timothy.brown@odt.co.nz 

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