‘I just saw the flame and people were screaming’
A murder investigation is under way after a woman was killed in a suspected arson attack on a property in southeast London that left two others in hospital and forced dozens more to leave their homes.
Residents in Centurion Square, Woolwich were woken just after 1am on Thursday by a loud bang and watched as flames took hold of the three-storey townhouse. A man was seen jumping from the second floor. A team of 60 firefighters battled for two hours to bring the fire under control.
The woman is rumoured not to have been the intended target, according to The Times,. which reported that a man wearing a black hoodie and grey tracksuit bottoms was seen running away before escaping with an accomplice on a moped.
The victim, believed to be in her late 40s, was found dead inside the property. A post-mortem will be carried out to confirm her cause of death.
Another woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s were both taken to hospital but their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening or life-changing. Around 30 others are being housed at a nearby leisure centre while surrounding building structures are made safe.
The fire is being treated as suspicious and detectives from the Metropolitan Police’s homicide and major crime command have launched a homicide investigation— the 100th in the capital this year. It is not clear whether or not the property was the intended target.
A neighbour, who did not want to be identified, said that she had heard a loud bang which she thought was a gas explosion,
“She was a lovely lady. Yesterday I heard the boom so when I came out I just saw the flame and people were screaming,” she said. “I was just too shocked, I didn’t know what happened.
“When I came there the old man was jumping from the top. He was just on the floor, it was horrible, I didn’t want to watch.
“You see stuff like this online but life like this – I knew him, he’s an old man, a very old man.”
Rumours about the target of the attack were circulating as neighbours and witnesses gathered at the scene, according to The Times.
“At this early stage any speculation about anyone targeted or any possible motive for the attack is unhelpful,” a police spokesperson said.
Detectives are keen however to speak to anyone who heard or saw anything suspicious before or after the fire started.
A group of people who said they were relatives of the deceased joined police at the scene this morning, as dogs searched the area for accelerants. One woman wept as she looked at the damaged property.
The windows of the house were open and one lay smashed on the ground beneath a diagonal scorch mark which stretched from the first to the second floor.