Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Tammuz 5761 - July 11, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











London Jewish Community Targeted By Serial Arsonist
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

In the past five weeks, the Jewish community of the Stamford Hill section in north London, has suffered six separate attacks -- described by police as racially motivated -- in which the front doors of homes have been sprayed with petrol and set alight. So far, no one has been hurt but the attacks have left the Orthodox community concerned for its safety and anxious that it does not get caught up in the kind of race hatred seen recently in the English cities of Oldham and Burnley.

Virtually no one on the streets of Stamford Hill was willing to discuss the attacks with a reporter of the London based Independent. Stamford Hill is said to have the largest Orthodox population after Israel and New York, with 21 Hebrew schools and 56 synagogues.

Councilor Joe Lobenstein, the Mayor of Hackney, warned against widespread panic and called for calm and vigilance.

Rabbi Abraham Pinter said: "People are obviously concerned and they are being more vigilant, checking smoke alarm batteries and so on. But they are not panicking -- nobody is moving away. The belief is that these attacks are not the work of an organized group. It is more likely to be one person working on their own, possibly with a mental health problem."

According to the Independent detectives agree that the fires are probably the work of a lone, deranged individual rather than the sinister activities of organized antisemites.

They have released an image from a CCTV camera of a woman of Afro-Caribbean origin, aged about 35, who they believe may be setting the fires. She was filmed shortly after one of the attacks last month by a camera at a nearby bank.

The arsonist has so far restricted the attacks to using a small amount of flammable liquid, causing minor damage, but in at least one incident the flames spread across carpets inside the door. Smoke forced the occupants - a family of 13 inside, including six children - to take refuge in the garden.

All but one of the attacks were between 12.30am and 6.30am while the victims were asleep. The other fire was started at about 12.30p.m.

Detective Inspector Dave Whellams, who is leading the investigation and is based at the Hackney Community Safety Unit, said:

"There is no doubt that this is causing a scare among the Jewish community. Although these attacks appear to be at the lower end of the scale, and carried out by an individual with local knowledge, they still have the potential to cause harm. There is always that concern about just what an individual is prepared to do."

Police have stepped up patrols in the area but, such is the sensitivity surrounding the campaign, officers refuse to reveal the streets were the attack took place.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.