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Investigation after ‘heritage crime’ arson at historic North Yorkshire chapel

Last modified: 18 June 2021 at 12:36pm

North Yorkshire Police is appealing for witnesses and information after a suspected arson attack at a historic chapel near Helmsley.

At about 9pm on Sunday 13 June 2021, a fire was reported in a storage room adjoining the War Memorial Chapel in a remote area near Oldstead, Ryedale. North Yorkshire Police officers and firefighters from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene.

The chapel was built from the ruins of a hillside farm by renowned sculptor John Bunting in 1957, to serve as a memorial chapel for those killed in the Second World War.

The fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately, destroyed the storage room adjoining the chapel, as well as a number of wooden statues.

Officers are requesting the public’s assistance to help identify those responsible for the fire. In particular, police are investigating two vehicles seen by witnesses in the area around the time of the incident: a dark 4×4 vehicle with one female driver, and a small, dark-coloured car with three people in it.

PC Mark Atkinson, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force, said: “John Bunting’s War Memorial Chapel is an important and meaningful part of North Yorkshire’s heritage. We’re treating this incident extremely seriously, and I’d urge anyone with information about it, or who knows who is responsible, to come forward to the police.

“If you live near a historically-important site, please be vigilant, and report any suspicious activity to the police straight away. We all need to work together to help protect our area’s rich heritage.”

North Yorkshire Police regularly patrol heritage sites, and work with partner agencies to ensure they are protected. People who live and work near such sites – particularly in rural areas – are asked to help the police combat heritage crime:

• Be aware of where the heritage sites and artefacts are in your community – you can find information at www.historicengland.org.uk – and keep an eye out for them
• Report any concerns to the police on 101 or, if a crime is in progress, 999.
• Join a police Rural Watch scheme, and share information with others in the area.
• Visit www.northyorkshire.police.uk/heritagewatch or contact your local police station for more information.

Anyone with information that could assist the investigation should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2, and ask for PC Jeremy Walmsley. You can also email jeremy.walmsley@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk
If you wish to remain anonymous, you can pass information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Please quote the North Yorkshire Police reference number 12210139008 when passing information about this incident.

Posted on in News stories, Rural