Brave neighbours rescue Leighton Buzzard family from arson attack

Matt Sutherland outside the ruined home
Matt Sutherland outside the ruined home

Two heroic neighbours risked their own lives to rescue a family whose home was engulfed in flames following an arson attack.

Gary Bannister and Matt Sutherland were at their Leighton Buzzard homes in the early hours of Wednesday, April 22, when they heard cries for help.

Outside, they saw the fire overwhelming the house in Hydrus Drive, where a family of three were perched on the roof of their porch.

They had escaped through a first-floor window after fire blocked the stairway, but remained trapped on the roof as smoke poured out from the building. Mr Bannister helped bring the couple’s young son down to safety, while warehouse worker Matt rescued the parents.

Matt, 18, had just returned home from his shift when the drama unfolded.

He said: “I was in my bedroom and heard people shouting for help. I ran out and saw the place on fire, and they were already on the roof of the porch.

“It was very fierce, and it spread so fast. The whole of the upstairs was completely on fire.

“The kid had been taken down, but the two parents were still up there. I just said to them ‘Look, you’ve got to jump’, so I got the mother down and she was coughing and very shocked.”

While helping the couple down, Matt paid close attention to the windows, fearing they would explode from the heat. Asked whether he had fears for his own safety, Matt said: “Not at all, I was more concerned about getting them down. I’d rather save a life than just stand by.”

He added: “I’m glad we managed to get them off the roof before the windows exploded.”

A spokesman for Beds Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called to a fire in Hydrus Drive, Leighton Buzzard, at 1.24am on the morning of April 22 after a smoke alarm alerted a family of three to a fire.

“The three occupants of the house had made their escape through a first floor window onto a porch where they were helped to safety by neighbours. They were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

“Firefighters used two hose reels, a covering jet and four breathing apparatus to extinguish the blaze that left the ground floor 50 per cent fire damaged and the first floor 100 per cent destroyed by fire.”

A fire investigation took place immediately afterwards. Lee Sopp, 19, of Harmony Row, Leighton Buzzard, was charged with arson with intent, and possession with intent to supply a class B drug. He appeared before Luton Magistrates Court on Friday April 24 and will appear at Luton Crown Court on May 1.