A fire chief fears a car destroyed in a blaze in South Shields this morning may have been deliberately torched.
Three fire crews and police raced to West Holborn in South Shields at 6am after receiving reports that a vehicle was alight in a car park.
Fire fighters spent over half an hour at the scene, extinguishing the blaze, which reduced the flame-ravaged vehicle to a shell.
The cause of the fire is suspected to be malicious, though investigations are at an early stage.
Watch Commander Paul Hartley, from South Shields fire station, said: "We turned out at 6am this morning to reports of a car on fire in a car park in Holborn Street.
"The car was totally destroyed by fire.
"There was nothing left - it was just a shell.
"The cause of the fire is suspected to be malicious.
"The police were also at the scene.
"We remained at the car park for about 40 minutes, putting out the fire, which had ruptured the petrol tank."
A Northumbria Police spokesman added: "At 6am this morning, police were informed that a car was on fire in West Holborn in South Shields.
"Inquiries are ongoing."
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, quoting the reference number 132/05/02/16.