A heartbroken Leighton Buzzard family is appealing for help after they had a narrow escape during a suspected arson attack which destroyed their beloved Christmas lights, caravan and car.
Parents and children from the town and further afield have always loved coming to see the festive lights that Amanda Rigby, 51, and Robert Pugh, 47, adorn their house with every December.
However, on Sunday, November 25, their Richmond Road property was the target of a suspected arson attack, the blaze melting the electric box on the side of their house and completely destroying their special caravan - a storage space for all their Christmas lights which they had planned to put up soon.
Now appeals for donations to replace the melted electric box and decorations are being led by friends and family, as Amanda and Robert recover from the upsetting ordeal.
Amanda said: “It just hurts that somebody could do this.
“Robert and I were sitting in the front room watching TV. We just heard this bash, got up and saw flames outside!
“We called the fire brigade who were trying to put it out with their hoses.
“They were out of this world; I couldn’t fault a single one of them.
“We’d run out, and my neighbours were giving me hugs, kisses, making me coffee. I was shouting and screaming and in my pyjamas.
“They brought me socks and a pair of shoes, and my sister-in-law Bev has been our rock.
“I’ve now got melted windows - it’s just disgusting. The pipes have melted, and if the gas metre had gone up... we wouldn’t be here.
“We’re gutted. Absolutely gutted and heartbroken. The lights meant the world.”
As well as destroying the many festive decorations that the family had bought over the years, the blaze also destroyed Amanda’s son’s car, and spread to a nearby shed and skip.
Beverley Roff, Amanda’s sister-in-law, said: “I was at home and looked out the window and I could see a reflection of blue lights.
“I opened the back door and could smell it and see flames. I thought, ‘That’s my brother’s house!’
“I was there in seconds.
“It’s going to be like a grieving process. The lights and caravan were sentimental.”
Shocked family friend, Sophie Stone, of Linslade, published a Facebook post on November 28 asking for donations of Christmas lights for the couple, and has already had offers.
Sophie, 26, said: “I’ve known Amanda and her partner for ages and every year without fail we’ve been down there with my little boy to see the lights, and when I was younger I used to go down there with my mum and sister.
“Sometimes we’d help put the display up because it takes a lot of time.
“I’m just gutted for them.
“My partner’s mum lives across the road and she phoned us when it happened. I was like ‘oh my God, what?’
“It only took us ten minutes to get down there but everything was gone. Amanda was just devastated.
“Amanda’s daughter, Joni Rigby, has also started a JustGiving page. She’s trying to raise money [£500], so I thought I would chip in and see if anyone had spare decorations.”
Sophie’s son, JJ, six, also loved the lights, and thankfully his favourite one, the train, has been spared because it had been sent off to be fixed at the time of the fire.
Sophie added: “Every little helps and its such a bad thing that’s happened; we want to get our faith back in the community and if anyone can help them it would be greatly appreciated.”
Indeed the £500 Joni is asking for will help towards to new electric box - without which the couple cannot light their decorations.
Joni said: “Mum’s put the lights up every year since I can remember and now I always bring my children.
“I got kind of angry; Mum and Dad are always known for these little things - mum helps the OAPs with shopping and dad cuts grass or helps them with odd jobs, putting TVs on their walls.
“Why would someone want to do this to our family?”
Amanda added: “We’ve been putting the lights up for about 19 years. We’ve been doing it for a long time, gradually adding a bit more, then a bit more, then a bit more.
“It brings joy and happiness to everybody.
“We had everyone from old ladies to young children visiting - people would come for miles.”
The couple would like to thank the fire brigade, police, and all their friends, family and neighbours for their support.
Amande concluded: “I’m just very grateful for our lives.”
Detective Constable Richard Marshall, investigating, said: “We are continuing to look into this incident, but are treating it as deliberate at this time.
“The car and the caravan have been destroyed and we’re keen to find out why this happened, and who is responsible. I’d urge anyone who has information to come forward, as they may be able to help our investigation.” A Beds Fire & Rescue Service spokesman added: “On arrival crews were faced with a caravan and car that was ablaze on a driveway, the fire spread to a fence and subsequently to a shed, causing damage to the adjacent house. It then also spread to a skip in the neighbouring property.
“The skip was 100 per cent destroyed by fire.
“The cause of the fire is under investigation.”
To arrange to give Christmas lights to Sophie, so as she can take them to Amanda and Robert, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate to the JustGiving page, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/christmaslighthelp?