Hunt for Sheffield arsonist who torched gran’s house

Barbara Furniss was rescued by fire crews from her torched house in Jordanthorpe.

Barbara Furniss was rescued by fire crews from her torched house in Jordanthorpe.

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A terrified pensioner had to be carried from her smoke-filled home by firefighters - after an arsonist started a blaze at her front door.

Barbara Furniss, aged 72, was heard screaming for help by neighbours who raised the alarm as flames raged in her hallway, blocking the way out of her home.

Firefighters said when they entered the end terrace on Bowshaw Close, Batemoor, Sheffield, they found the grandmother-of-six trapped in her bedroom.

They carried her outside to safety, where paramedics gave her oxygen at the scene, before taking her to the Northern General Hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.

Yesterday, while Barbara recovered from her ordeal in hospital, friends and relatives condemned the arsonist for putting the pensioner’s life at risk.

The blaze took hold just streets away from where Anthony and Patricia Brightmore, and their blind son Stephen, perished in 2005 when an arsonist started a fire in a wheelie bin and pushed it against their front door on Batemoor Walk.

A 15-year-old boy was charged over the deaths but found not guilty of manslaughter after a trial.

Barbara’s daughter-in-law Fiona Furniss, 43, said: “I can’t understand how somebody could do this - words fail me.

“Three members of the same family died near here when a fire was started outside their house - it is just luck the same didn’t happen this time.

“Barbara was shouting out of a bedroom window at the back, and a neighbour tried to kick the door down while his wife raised the alarm - we thank them for their efforts.

“If Barbara had been asleep it would have taken only a couple of minutes and then it might have been too late.

“People who do things like this need to realise the consequences - it’s not just properties and belongings they put at risk, it’s lives too.”

Barbara’s granddaughter Amber Furniss, 18, said: “Whoever did this must be sick. My grandma has all her memories here and she wanted to still live here when her husband died 18 months ago. Whether she will want to come back now I don’t know.”

Relatives rallied round yesterday to try to clean up the charred house.

Barbara’s son Steve, 40, who runs Architectural Metalwork Installations, drafted in members of his workforce to help.

Shocked neighbours also condemned the arsonist.

Diane Darwent, 52, said: “It is disgusting that somebody would do this to a pensioner’s house.

“It is like a repeat of what happened when the Brightmore family all died in a fire that was also started deliberately - I knew Pat, and this will shock and upset a lot of people.

“I can’t understand why anyone would want to harm an elderly lady.”

A Fire Service spokesman said: “Starting fires is reckless and costs lives. In recent high-profile cases nationally, arson attacks on homes have resulted in murder convictions and substantial prison sentences.

“The maximum sentence for arson is life in prison and we’d encourage anyone who knows of people starting fires to call Crimestoppers.”

A police investigation into the Bowshaw Close blaze is now under way.

Witnesses or anyone with information should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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