An arson attack that destroyed a fleet of pizza delivery scooters has raised fears of a turf war among rival fast-food operators in Sydney's red-light area.
Seven scooters were torched in the attack on Domino's Pizza on Tuesday, on the eve of Wednesday night's State of Origin 1 match, the busiest night of the year for the city's fast food outlets. It was the second time in eight months that the Domino's branch in Kings Cross, in central Sydney, had been targeted.
The branch is run by Nick Knight, one of Australia's most successful franchisees, who operates 18 Domino's outlets. Police said that the two attacks appeared to be linked, and could have been made by someone with a grudge against the busy shop.
The blaze that destroyed the bikes - parked at a Kings Cross car wash, which leases parking space to Domino's - began shortly before 5am. CCTV cameras showed a small fire starting in one scooter and then spreading to the others. Detectives believe that the blaze, which was extinguished by firefighters, was deliberately lit.
In the previous attack last September, eight delivery bikes were burned at the same Star Car Wash site, weeks before the NRL grand final.
Police have yet to make any arrests over that incident, and say their investigation remains open.
"The connection between the two incidents is extremely similar," said Detective Inspector Jason Weinstein. "At the moment we are looking for anyone from a straight-out arsonist to someone who might bear a grudge against the operators."
However, the manager of the Kings Cross franchise, Damon Singh, dismissed speculation about a turf war, noting that his was the only pizza delivery outlet in the district. He told the Daily Telegraph that the latest fire was disastrous timing, but said league fans did not go without pizzas during the match between the NSW Blues and Queensland Maroons. He said they had the use of bikes from other stores.
There was speculation that residents angry about noise made by the delivery scooters could be behind the attacks. "People have been coming in with a lot of conspiracy theories," said Paul Ryder, owner of a nearby cafe.
"There's a lot of talk from the locals that the pizza guys rev up the bikes when they are putting them away ... apparently residents have made noise complaints but it keeps on happening."
Knight, 29, who was visiting the United States at the time of the attack, is the company's largest franchisee in Australia, he was awarded a "Gold Franny" by the International Franchise Association in March.
Domino's said it took the two incidents very seriously and was co-operating with the police investigation. "Thankfully the scooters were unoccupied at the time and no one was injured during the fire."