Suspected arson attack at Lancashire flat sparked by rumours 'notorious paedophile' lived there

Rumours a "notorious paedophile" had moved to Lancashire led to a suspected arson attack at a flat where he was rumoured to be living.

Police were called to a report of a suspicious fire at a block of flats in Thornfield Avenue, Waterfoot, at around 12.40am on March 22.

The flats were empty at the time and nobody was injured.

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Detectives said they are treating the incident as a deliberate attack and believe it to be a case of "mistaken identity".

Police have released pictures of two men they would like to speak to as part of their enquiries. (Credit: Lancashire Police)

Today (April 7), officers released footage of two men they would like to speak to as part of their enquiries.

“We are aware that this incident caused a lot of concern in the community at the time, as well as speculation on social media, and we have had a dedicated team of officers working to identify those responsible," DC Martin Vernon, of Burnley CID, said

“With that in mind, we now want to speak to the men in the CCTV who we believe may be able to assist with our enquiries. If anybody recognises them, or if the men themselves see this appeal, I would urge them to get in contact with police as soon as possible."

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A 34-year-old man from Bacup who was arrested in March on suspicion of arson has since been released under investigation.

DC Martin Vernon added: “We believe this to be a case of mistaken identity and the person who we believe to be the target does not reside in the area.”

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The force has previously attempted to dispel rumours that an alleged paedophile known as 'Mark Feely' was living in the county.

In a statement posted online, a spokesman for Chorley Police said: "We can confirm the individual named on social media DOES NOT currently live in the Lancashire area.

"We understand that when rumours like this circulate people may become concerned.

"But, as is sometimes the case, when people start to talk about such things, stories are confused and added to as they are passed on, without any malicious intent,

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"And after the story has been retold a few times it can become exaggerated or feel like it must be true."

Police said people should report any suspicious behaviour and approach officers with their concerns, but has urged people not to spread 'gossip' that could cause alarm in the community.

Anyone with information can contact police by emailing [email protected] or calling 101, quoting log number 34 of March 22.

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