The owner of a business ruined by a devastating fire has spoken about how he was wrongly blamed for the blaze by online trolls.
Gareth Carr, from Hebburn, estimated about £10,000 of his and his clients’ property was destroyed after flames tore through the former Savoy Bingo hall, in The Green, Southwick,
Sunderland, which was home to his Southwick Auction Rooms.
The blaze, which resulted in the roof caving in, forced him to close his business and begin searching for a new job.
A man and a woman were arrested in connection with what Northumbria Police still consider to be arson.
But they were later released without charge and Mr Carr said trolls incorrectly concluded that he was behind the February 3 inferno.
Mr Carr, 31, who was in the process of moving his business out of the rented premises, said: “People put two and two together and were quite willing to blame me online. It was depressing at first because I was already upset about what happened to the building and contents.
“But I couldn’t get contents insurance in the first place because the building had suffered break-ins previously. So there was no financial gain to be had.
“I was questioned by the police before they decided there was no further action to be taken. They were just doing their job and were brilliant afterwards.”
Father-of-one Mr Carr added: “Three years of hard work had disappeared just like that and it took me months to get over it.
“But I had to pull myself together, ignore the comments people were making and find myself a new job. Now I’m a quality assurance inspector at Nissan.”
While he is rebuilding his life, a fire at Brian Carins’s Jarrow Auction Rooms, in Bede Burn Road, on November 24 has brought back painful memories of February’s blaze.
Mr Carr said: “I feel for him. He is a friend of mine and gave me the idea to open my business in the first place.”
He would not disclose how much February’s fire has cost him personally but added: “What I made went back into the running of the business and this could not have happened at a worse time.
“People who signed up with me with their belongings knew we weren’t covered by contents insurance because of the terms and conditions of sale.
“I’m still trying to pay two or three clients’ back although I have under no obligation to do so. That’s just the way I am.”
Anyone with any information about the Southwick fire is urged to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 864 030217 of February 3.