Arsonist with chilling Halloween mask pictured after attack

Simon Garner

This is the chilling image of an arsonist wearing a Halloween mask moments after he set fire to an elderly couple's cottage as they slept inside.

The figure was captured on CCTV fleeing the scene after he pushed a home-made fire bomb through the letterbox of terrified pensioners Peter and Sylvia Cox.

The frail pair were forced to scramble from an upstairs windows with the help of neighbours as the inferno engulfed their picturesque 17th century home and killed their beloved greyhound.

Incredibly it was the fourth time their home had been randomly attacked by arsonists in a matter of months.

At the time, the crimes were described as like a 'story line from Midsomer Murders' with detectives baffled as to why the couple had been repeatedly targeted.

The couple's home was first attacked in August and October 2010 and again in March and May last year.

On the first anniversary of the last attack on May 4 last year, police have released pictures of the arsonist who was caught wearing the horror mask.

The defiant pensioners have also decided to return to their home of 30 years - even though the arsonist is still at large.

Yesterday Peter, 83, and Sylvia 75, said the decision to move back to their home in Castle Bytham, Lincolnshire, was a difficult one to make.

Peter, a former parish councillor, said: "We have two daughters living in Staffordshire so we went and stayed with them.

"It was nice to be near them and also the grandchildren and it stopped us thinking about the fire.

"My wife has been very strong. What she said to me, quite sensibly, was we have got to try it [move back home].

"At three o'clock in the afternoon it's fine, it's at three o'clock in the morning that it's not so good.

"But you have to live with it, don't you?

"It's our home. It's the small things you miss, like memories and photographs.

"Losing those is upsetting because they're irreplaceable."

Sylvia, a housewife, added: "We're OK in the day time, I'm not very good at the night.

"People said they could never come back like we did, but our life is here."

Each arson attack involved a thug hurling crude petrol bombs using fireworks in glass bottles.

The first three firebombs failed to ignite properly but on May 4 last year, the couple woke to find their picturesque stone cottage filled with smoke.

In a frantic 999 call at the time, Peter told the operator: "We're on fire, the house in on fire and there is smoke everywhere.

"I'm inside and I'm not sure how we can get out."

Neighbours helped the couple escape who climbed out of an upstairs window and down an ladder.

Following the last attack, which claimed the life of the pair's dog Toby, the couple reluctantly moved after police warned them against returning to their home.

Speaking at the time, Peter added: "I have no idea why someone would target us like this."

Police this week issued a fresh appeal on the first anniversary of the shocking attack.

Detective Sergeant Jon Shield, from Lincolnshire Police, who is leading the investigation, said:  "This was an extremely traumatic experience for the couple and they could easily have been killed in their own home.

"It is important that people visit our website to look at the CCTV images of the suspect that we have already released.

"If anyone knows the man on the bike, wearing a Halloween-style mask, then please get in touch with us as soon as possible."

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