‘Mindless’ yobs set garage ablaze in firework attack as family sleeps

Neil Nicholson examines the damage to his garage
Neil Nicholson examines the damage to his garage
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A FAMILY’s lives were put at risk after “mindless” yobs set fire to their property with a firework while they slept.

Police received numerous calls from terrified residents in West Pilton overnight on Tuesday and Wednesday, reporting that fireworks were being recklessly set off by youths.

The most serious incident saw musician Neil Nicholson and his family woken up by firefighters after a blaze broke out in the garage of their West Pilton Drive home, which is connected to the house.

Police said it had been started after a firework was pushed through a gap in the garage wall, and appealed for witnesses to come 
forward.

Councillors branded the behaviour “outrageous”, warning it could have ended in tragedy.

A courier and folk musician with the band Beggars Row, Mr Nicholson lives with wife Natalia, 52, who works for Primark, step-daughter Jessica, 21, and her husband, Dmitry, 28.

“It was frightening,” he said. “It’s been mindless idiots behind this – we could have lost our lives. A passer-by had seen the smoke and called the emergency services, so we were woken up with the firefighters banging on the door.

“My wife woke up first and said she could smell smoke.

“At first I thought the fire was coming from the neighbour’s house, then I went outside and saw the smoke was coming from the garage.

“The police thought they might have been trying to break in to the garage, but it was well secured.

“There was a loose brick in the side of the garage and I wonder if they just decided to put the firework through out of spite.”

He admitted the family had been lucky that the fire brigade had been called before the blaze spread.

“It’s pretty scary when someone is trying to set fire to your property,” Mr Nicholson said.

“It could have been worse – the firework could have been posted through the 
letterbox.”

No-one was injured in the blaze, which was reported at around midnight and attended by 12 firefighters.

Mr Nicholson said: “Natalia had been in the computer room above the garage and she thought she had heard teenage voices outside just before we went to bed.

“I don’t know why the shops sell fireworks this early, I’m sitting here now listening to bangs going off.”

Pilton councillor Steve Cardownie described the incident as “outrageous”.

He said: “There could have been a fatality.

“This has been mindless, stupid kids who could have caused so much grief and mayhem.

“Fortunately no-one was injured, but this kind of thing is not just a prank, there could have been tragic consequences.

“It’s just a joke to them. I’m sure they didn’t intend to burn the place down, but they need to take stock of what they are doing.

“Shopkeepers have got to be diligent about who they sell fireworks to.

“Every year there are firework incidents around Edinburgh. We have to get through to these kids.”

Officers are carrying out inquiries, including the use of CCTV, in an attempt to identify the culprits.

Detective Constable Rachel Robertson, who is investigating the incident, said it was considered “unusual” for this type of crime to be committed.

“A few people had contacted us to say there were youths in the area setting off fireworks,” she said. “We believe these youths were responsible for setting the garage on fire and we are appealing to any witnesses to come froward.

“From what our witnesses have said, we believed we are looking for youths of around 14 or 15 years of age.

“It was obvious what had happened as the firework was found nearby.

“What we are really keen to stress is how dangerous this kind of thing is.”

Anyone with any information should contact the police on 0131-311 3131 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.