Arrest made after homeless woman's tent is torched in Newington Green - with her inside it
PUBLISHED: 18:35 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:52 30 August 2019
A homeless woman feels she narrowly escaped death when her tent in Newington Green was torched this afternoon.
Donna Johnson was in her red tent, tucked away in the park bushes, when someone ran over and set it alight.
Donna managed to scramble out just before her whole home ignited and exploded, but all her belongings have been burned in the blaze.
A woman has been arrested and was this afternoon being held by police on suspicion of arson with intention to endanger life.
Firefighters and police were called at about 3.30pm.
Donna told the Gazette: "I was in my tent and a lady kept coming around saying she was going to set my tent on fire. The next thing, I just remember hearing crackling of the flames. Tents go up very quickly, and as I came out it went 'bang, bang' because of the deodorants.
"It was horrible. It was so scary. I still haven't taken it in."
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She added: "Thank god I got out just in time. I was lucky to get out at the right second. If I had been a couple of seconds more I would have been gone."
But she added: "You do get people like that who target homeless people. It's put me off going into a tent again. Everything I owned is in there. I have nothing. Whatever I have with me is what I have left."
Donna had been sleeping in the square for the past few months and says she's never caused any trouble.
She's been street homeless for years.
"I just smell of fire," she added, "I smell horrible. I just feel sick. It's making my stomach go."
She said a worker at Belle Epoque Patisserie, opposite the park, brought her pastries, comforted her and gave her £20 after the incident.
One woman, who was sitting on a park bench when it happened, said: "There was an explosion. I could hear the bang - it was frightening."
John Clayden was in his home in Howard Road when he heard the explosion. He left his house and went to the park to investigate, where he told the Gazette: "I looked out of the window and I saw a lot of smoke coming up from this area. I heard one explosion and then another. [...] It was very loud."
Part of the park was still taped off this evening.