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12 August 2011, 11:14
Police investigating a fire that's completely destroyed a 900-year-old thatched pub now think it was started deliberately.
Detectives are searching for a man seen near the historic Norman King pub on Church Street, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, just after midnight on Wednesday 10 August 2011, shortly before the fire broke out.
The fire led to people staying at the nearby Old Palace Lodge having to be evacuated to a nearby Holiday Inn. A number of other buildings nearby were damaged by the flames.
The damage caused to the Norman King building has been so severe, detectives have been unable to establish exactly how the fire began, but it's believed to have been started deliberately.
The pub - which has stood on Church Street in Dunstable since around 1109 AD - was being refurbished and was due to reopen on Saturday 3 September. Because of the severity of the fire, the ancient building has now had to be demolished.
After looking through CCTV footage, Bedfordshire Police say they are particularly keen to speak to a man seen leaving the Nags Head pub in High Street North, Dunstable, before heading towards the Norman King at 11.45pm on Tuesday night. He was wearing a light-coloured, waist length jacket and a dark coloured top underneath.
Investigating Officer Vicki Gibson said: "It is vitally important that we speak to this individual as he may have some valuable information relating to this incident. I would urge anyone who may have seen him or knows his identity, to get in touch.
"This historic pub was due to open on Saturday September 3, but instead it has been demolished due to the large amount of damage caused by the blaze. We believe that this fire was started deliberately and we need to ensure that whoever did so is not able to com
mit a similar offence anywhere else."