POLICE are convinced arson caused a major fire which destroyed the Student Union complex at a leading Catholic college of Higher Education in London earlier this month, causing £500,000-worth of damage. The blaze, which began in the early hours of the morning at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill, in Twickenham, completely gutted a bar, television lounge, shop and bank sub-branch used by students. Completion of a major refurbishment programme on the complex, costing in the region of £100,000, was only weeks away.
Detective Inspector John Harwood of Twickenham police told the Catholic Herald: "There have been a number of arson attacks in the Twickenham area recently, and we think they may be connected," He said it was likely the arsonist gained entry to the coverted 1960s building through an unlocked door and began the fire on the first floor using paper and matches.
Dr Arthur Naylor, Principal Designate of the College, said his first priority was to arrange alternative facilities on campus for the Students' Union before the start of the new term.
"We are now working to reprovide the facilities and to minimise inconvenience,he said.