Montgomery Street fire: Leith couple 'devastated' as work van is torched in vandal attack

An Edinburgh couple have been left shocked and devastated after their van was burned out in a fire-raising spree by vandals.

By Ilona Amos
Sunday, 26th June 2022, 3:04 pm

Will Beeslaar and Janeanne Gilchrist, who run a small business in Leith, were awoken in the early hours of Sunday morning as firefighters arrived to tackle the blaze.

The fire, in Montgomery Street, was well established and among a number which had been started in communal bins in the neighbourhood.

They say they are “gutted” at the loss of the van and have no idea how they are going to continue in their work without it.

The vehicle was used for business transportation and had been fitted out for overnight stays, with gas canisters on board.

The couple, of design agency Staunch Industries, were still reeling as their vehicle was removed for further examination but said they were grateful the incident wasn’t worse.

“We’re just aghast that somebody would purposefully burn down our livelihood,” said Mr Beeslaar, founder and creative director at Staunch and a keen surfer and diver.

“This is just devastating for us.

Will Beeslaar, founder and creative director at Staunch Industries design agency, said: “This is just devastating for us. I don’t know how we’re going to recover.” Picture: Ilona Amos

“I don’t know how we’re going to recover.”

The couple are still reeling from the attack and find the deliberate nature of the incident deeply upsetting.

Co-founder Ms Gilchrist, a designer, free-diver and underwater photographer, said: “We just bounced out of bed at about 5am, into the street.

“The bins were on fire and so was our van.

Will Beeslaar and Janeanne Gilchrist, who run a small business in Leith, have been left "devastated" after their work van was torched in an arson attack in the early hours of Sunday. Picture: Ilona Amos

“We’re a small business.

“This is devastating, the vehicle was part of our business.

“It has been a long time in the making, bringing it up to the standard we wanted as a working vehicle and camper van.

“It allows us to go out and do the things that are intrinsically linked to our business, which is being outdoors.

As well as the van, vandals set fire to communal bins during a fire-raising spree in the Montgomery Street neighbourhood. Picture: Ilona Amos

“We’re completely devastated by somebody’s malice, to just vandalise it for the sake of fun.”

Mr Beeslaar added: “This was our lockdown project and we spent a lot of time and money getting the van and fitting it out.

“It’s really devastating that somebody would come down and set it on fire.

“It’s not a nice way to wake up in the morning.

“Somebody stuck something in the front grille and by the time I woke up the fire brigade was already down here.

“They set a bunch of recycling bins on fire as well, so we know somebody has done this to us.

“We spoke to the police about it.

“They don’t have any answers basically.

“We’re hoping that somebody out there has got some CCTV footage so we can find the perpetrator and bring them to justice.

“If anybody out there has got any information, please get in contact with us.”

The vehicle has now been removed and will undergo further examination.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We were called around 5.05am on Sunday, 26 June, to a report of a vehicle on fire in the Montgomery Street area of Edinburgh.

"Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.”

The latest fires come amid an epidemic of similar incidents in the Leith area over the past couple of years.

In 2020, after a spate of almost 30 bin fires, emergency services have teamed up with local authorities to patrol the Leith Walk area of the city.