A heartbroken family is appealing for donations and Christmas lights after their beautiful display, famous around Leighton-Linslade, was destroyed in a suspected arson attack.
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 evening (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 beloved 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.
Amanda said: “It just hurts that somebody could do this.
“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 meant the world. It brings joy and happiness to everybody.
“We had everyone from old ladies to young children visiting - people would come for miles.
“There’s little kids and tiny tots. They sometimes come back when they’re older and show us pictures.
“We’re gutted. Absolutely gutted and heartbroken.”
The blaze destroyed the family’s caravan, Amanda’s son’s car, and leapt up the side of their house, while it also spread to a shed and skip.
Shocked family friend, Sophie Stone, of Linslade, published a Facebook post yesterday (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 since I can remember and now I always bring my children.
“I live up the road and the other day when it happened I was poorly at the time but one of my neighbours came and got me.
“I just ran down the road and Mum was crying her eyes out. I said ‘You’ll have to just leave it, Mum’.
“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 and her partner Robert were in the house at the time of the incident watching television, and ran outside after hearing a loud bash.
They were comforted by neighbours, while fire crews worked tirelessly to put the flames out.
Amanda added: “Thank you my neighbours, friends and family. 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: “Crews from Leighton Buzzard attended a fire at a property in Richmond Road, Leighton Buzzard on Sunday just before 7.20pm.
“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. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus extinguished the fire using two hose reels and a safety jet.
“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?utm_id=108&utm_term=pGAbPpaMB&fbclid=IwAR1mVnXZcdkVoqzghZ6w4S7d0OsJwKuJjmxa3pwFwvrD7v3UDIVEyXZ8l8s
For more information, see Tuesday’s Leighton Buzzard Observer.