Terrified workers flee as ‘punter’ sets fire to bookies

Bob Holmes betting shop on City Road, Sheffield
Bob Holmes betting shop on City Road, Sheffield
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TWO terrified women fled a Sheffield bookies when a man believed to be a punter poured petrol around the shop and set it ablaze.

A man had earlier been involved in a dispute over a games machine.

Police were later called after a man carried a petrol can into the shop and began pouring it over the counter where the two women were working and set it on fire.

Nicola Holmes, aged 46, whose brother Ben manages the family business on City Road, near Manor Top, and her colleague ran from behind the counter but before they could get out of the front door the petrol had gone up in flames.

Today Nicola, whose family set up Bob Holmes Bookmakers around 50 years ago, said: “I am in shock more than anything else.

“A man had been in earlier and there was a dispute over one of the games machines and before he left that first time he warned us that we would not be working again because there would be no shop left.”

She said that later a man walked over to the counter where the women were standing and started pouring something out of a container.

Nicola added: “It took a few seconds to register what was happening but then I could smell the petrol fumes and shouted at him asking what he was doing but he just carried on.

“We then ran out from behind the counter and were only half way across the shop when there were flames everywhere.

“He came out of the shop after us and just walked down the street.

“I turned round and there was already thick black smoke coming out of the shop - I was in total shock.”

Her brother Ben, 44, said he was relieved nobody had been hurt.

“I am just absolutely delighted my sister and the other lady working here at the time were not hurt,” he said.

“While he was emptying the can of petrol they managed to get out but the shop went up really quickly - the flames reached the roof.

“We will be up and running as soon as possible - we will not let this close us for long. Everybody in the local area has been really concerned and we have had lots of kind offers to help us get the place ready to open again.”

Customer Richard Hudson, 42, who bets at the shop every day, said: “I am gutted for everyone who works at the shop - it is unbelievable that this has happened, anything could have happened.”

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “Officers investigating an alleged arson attack at a bookmakers premises in the Manor area of the city have arrested a 49-year-old man on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life, he is currently in custody and enquiries continue.

“The alleged incident occurred at around 5.15pm on Wednesday at premises on City Road.

“The fire service and police attended the scene, no one was injured during the incident.”