‘We could have died’ says fire attack victim

Brian Toberman, with his dog Bella, by his burned out canal boat at Hebden Bridge Marina

Brian Toberman, with his dog Bella, by his burned out canal boat at Hebden Bridge Marina

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A couple had a lucky escape when they decided not to sleep on their boat the night it was involved in a suspected arson attack.

Brian Toberman found his barge had been completely destroyed after he had left it tied up at Mayroyd Moorings, Hebden Bridge, on November 5.

Brian Toberman, with his dog Bella, by his burnt out canal boat at Hebden Bridge Marina.

Brian Toberman, with his dog Bella, by his burnt out canal boat at Hebden Bridge Marina.

On the night of the attack, both the 63-year-old and his wife Louise had talked about sleeping on the boat but decided not to. “We are still deeply shocked about it - not just about the damage to the boat but how we could have been on it,” said Mr Toberman. “We could have died.

“From how the fire was started I don’t believe we would have had a chance to get out.”

The boat was tied up but damaged a neighbours boat and was found in the middle of the canal.

Mr Toberman said that had the weather been worse it could of collided with more barges tied along the canal.

Brian Toberman, with his dog Bella, by his burnt out canal boat at Hebden Bridge Marina.

Brian Toberman, with his dog Bella, by his burnt out canal boat at Hebden Bridge Marina.

The retired lecturer spent at least three days a week sleeping on the boat with his dog Bella who works as a Pets as Therapy animal.

The boat was playing an important role for the couple as it was used an office as Louise had just set up a child minding business. David Ormerod from Bronte Boats managed to stop the boat from sinking but it will now be scrapped.

“You build a strong affection with the boat,” added Mr Toberman, who has been ruled out of police enquiries.

“We just want to thank the people of Hebden Bridge who have been magnificent. There have been so many messages of support on Facebook and speaking to people.”

Police in Hebden Bridge are appealing for information following the incident.

Detective Inspector Gary Stevenson of Calderldale CID said: “I would appeal to anyone who may have been in Hebden Bridge late on Thursday night (November 5), or in the early hours of Friday morning (November 6) and may have seen or heard anything suspicious to come forward.

“Fortunately, on the night in question, there was no one residing in the barge however, the consequences of the fire could have been life-threatening. Extensive damage has been caused to the boat, and I would urge anyone who has any information about the incident to speak to the police. Enquiries are ongoing.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Calderldale CID via 101. Information can also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or online https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/