Rainham man loses livelihood in suspected arson

A MAN who nursed his building business back from the brink has seen his livelihood go up in smoke in a suspected arson.

Builder Christopher Dalby, 57, could only stand and watch as his van was engulfed in flames, in a blaze police and fire crews suspect was started deliberately.

The motor, parked near Mr Dalby’s home in Blake Close, Rainham, was filled with essential equipment - not covered by his insurance - as well as his portfolio, and a diary of upcoming jobs.

The dad-of-four told Recorder: “I work for myself; this is my livelihood, so we are going to have to put Christmas on hold financially.

“The thing that really hurts is the senselessness of it all. I could understand a bit better if there was an electrical fault or if there had been some sort of accident, but knowing that it could have been started on purpose makes me feel sick.”

He estimates the fire, started at around 2.45pm on Saturday December 5, will cost him around �4,000, including the replacement of ladders, a cement mixer and power tools.

It is the second time Mr Dalby’s business has been wiped out in one fell swoop, after his van was stolen from Crow Lane, Romford, while he attended a funeral 12 years ago.

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“It’s taken me this long to accumulate all the tools again,” he said. “Especially the specialty tools that I only buy as and when a job requires them.

“It’s hard knowing I have to start again from scratch.”

However, Mr Dalby has pledged to honour all his contracts.

Friend Neil Laurie, who saw the fire, said: “He’s lost everything - and just before Christmas. He has always struggled but he was just getting his life in order.”

He added: “He has no enemies and neighbours say they saw kids running from the area at the time.”

A police spokesman confirmed the fire was being treated as arson, but said there was no proof it had been started by children.

Anyone with information should call Romford Police Station on: 0300 123 1212.