Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Links between Auckland church and school fires explored

Fire lit in historic St Mary's in Parnell follows one in Ponsonby - possibly by same pair.

Avril Souter the dean's warden, views the damage to a  door of St Mary's. The fire at the church happened two days after deliberately-lit fires at Richmond Rd School (left). Photo / Brett Phibbs
Avril Souter the dean's warden, views the damage to a door of St Mary's. The fire at the church happened two days after deliberately-lit fires at Richmond Rd School (left). Photo / Brett Phibbs

Two early morning fires deliberately lit at an Auckland school and church may have been started by the same people, police say.

In both cases two people were seen fleeing the scene of the fires shortly after they were discovered, 48 hours apart.

Shortly after 4am yesterday a fire was lit inside St Mary's in Holy Trinity, next door to the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell. Soon afterwards Dean of Auckland Jo Kelly-Moore, who lives on-site, saw two people near the rear door of the chapel, which was on fire. She called police who converged on the scene with dog handlers. However, the pair could not be found.

"Fortunately from our house, it was audible and visible," said Reverend Kelly-Moore. "We were able to call the fire brigade and with the use of some fire extinguishers and the brigade's hoses it was quickly brought under control."

A porch and set of doors had been burnt in the fire, but there was no structural damage to the church.

"St Mary's is a wonderful treasure. It was built in 1866 and is a very important place for lots and lots of people. Those things are always shocking. We're very grateful today that the end damage is ... minimal."

Two days earlier two people were also spotted running from the scene of two deliberately lit fires which damaged four buildings at Richmond Road School in Grey Lynn.

Firefighters working to douse the school fire saw what looked like two males on the field nearby.

The fires were reported between 4.45am and 5.15am and took hold quickly.

It is understood one of the fires was lit in a toilet block, which spread through a classroom into the roof.

The toilet block was destroyed, and the first classroom significantly damaged. Another three classrooms suffered smoke damage.

Both fires were under investigation and a source said it was likely they were connected.

Can you help?

If you have any information about either of the fires contact the Auckland City police on (09) 302 6400. Alternatively, if you want to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If you see any suspicious fires, call 111 immediately.

- additional reporting APNZ

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

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