Sunderland family fear terror campaign as dog dies in arson attack

Douglas Soakell
Douglas Soakell

A Wearside family say they are being targeted in a deliberate campaign after a pet dog was killed in an arson attack.

Spaniel Tessa died when the van in which she was sleeping was torched outside Douglas Soakell’s home in High Street, Easington Lane, on Thursday night.

Douglas Soakell with coal bags recovered from the van

Douglas Soakell with coal bags recovered from the van

Mr Soakell says the attack is the third in less than a month in which Transit pick-ups belonging to his three sons have been destroyed.

The brothers all operate coal rounds in the area and Mr Soakell believes someone may be trying to drive them out of business.

Now he is offering a £1,000 reward for any information leading to the conviction of those responsible.

Tessa belonged to his son David, who has been staying temporarily with Douglas and wife Betty.

Douglas Soakell at the scene of the latest arson attack

Douglas Soakell at the scene of the latest arson attack

“We have already got two dogs and we don’t have space for another, that’s why she was in the van,” said Douglas.

“David is totally gutted - we all are. It is like losing a member of the family.”

The family say the attack was the latest in a spate which started on Christmas Day.

“On Christmas morning, my son Paul who lives just up the road from me had his van burnt out with petrol,” said Douglas.

Douglas Soakell at the scene of the latest arson attack

Douglas Soakell at the scene of the latest arson attack

“Then on Monday my other son, who lives in Haswell, has had his vehicle burned out.”

Douglas says the family has no idea why they are being targeted and can only assume it is an attempt to drive the brothers out of business.

“We are not sure why this is happening - we have not had any threats,” he said.

“We keep ourselves to ourselves, we don’t bother anybody - the only thing we can think of is that somebody is trying to put us out of business.”

A Northumbria Police spokeswoman confirmed an investigation was under way: “Police are carrying out enquiries after a van was set on fire in High Street, Easington Lane, in the early hours,” she said.

“The fire caused substantial damage to the van and a dog that was in the van at the time sadly died as a result of the fire.

“Enquiries are on-going and police are appealing for witnesses. Any witnesses should ring Northumbria Police on 101 quoting reference 122 200117 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”