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Vandals leave life in ruins after starting fire in Clifton home

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 19, 2013

By Mike Ribbeck

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When Elizabeth McAfee's mobile phone started to ring she had no idea that her whole world was about to fall apart around her.

The former social worker and community development worker had left her cosy terrace on a quiet street in Bristol earlier in the day for a trip north to see relatives.

Just a few hours later, more than three decades of memories and family heirlooms had been left destroyed by vandals who broke into the 64-year-old's Clifton Wood home and did their best to completely wreck the Victorian villa she had filled to the brim with paintings, gifts from friends and family photographs .

Not content with rifling through her possessions and helping themselves to her belongings, the intruders started at least four fires which have left every floor of the building and every room ruined.

The first that Ms McAfee knew something was amiss was when her neighbour rang 12 hours later.

She said: "My neighbour was asking me where I was, he wanted to make sure I wasn't in the house, which seemed a bit strange at the time.

"It was only after I told him that I was OK that he told me that he had called the fire brigade after he spotted smoke coming out of my house."

Ms McAfee had no idea of the scale of destruction until she got home and she is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that the only possessions she has left are the clothes she took away with her for the weekend.

"There is the moment where I wake up in the morning and have to remember where I am," she said. "It takes a couple of minutes for it all to sink in but it does all still feel a bit unreal.

"I have not even had a good cry yet, I am just still trying to get my head around what has happened."

Ms McAfee is still trying to work out why she was targeted. She said: "That is one of the worst things about all of this, trying to work out why someone would want to do something like this to me.

"The police asked me if I had fallen out with anyone but I am just not the sort of person who would get involved in anything like this. I keep asking myself what sort of person would want to do something that is so wanton and vicious and why they would want to pick on me?

"The vandals broke in through a basement window and used clothes and bedcovers soaked in flammable liquid to start at least three or four fire."

Although she is planning to say with friends and family over Christmas it will be at least six months before her house is anywhere near habitable once again.

She said: "This is my precious home and I have lived here for more than half my life. One of the hardest things to take is that little gifts and presents given to me by friends have been destroyed and they are gone forever.

"What this has done has made me realise just what good friends and family I have got. There have been lots of offers of help and I have somewhere to stay while I get myself together."

Anyone with information about the incident should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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