Suspected arson attack on vehicles belonging to councillor at centre of race row

Coun Jeff Milburn with his burned out van
Coun Jeff Milburn with his burned out van

A Tory councillor at the centre of race row says he believes he’s been targeted after two of his vehicles were torched.

Coun Jeff Milburn says he is now worried for the welfare of his wife Fiona, and their four children, after his Mercedes car and a Peugeot Boxer van were set on fire on land next to his home in Cleadon.

Coun Milburn claims he is being targeted because of a race row he is involved in

Coun Milburn claims he is being targeted because of a race row he is involved in

The Tory Cleadon and East Boldon councillor is currently suspended from the party after an investigation was launched into accusations by former South Shields Conservative Association chairman, Ajay Jagota, and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

It was claimed Coun Milburn made ‘racially offensive’ remarks - which he strongly denies - and is now in the process of appealing the decision.

Northumbria Police have confirmed they are investigating the fire, which took place last Sunday night on land owned by the councillor.

Coun Milbun said: “I honestly believe it’s got something to do with this ongoing saga - allegations which I still categorically deny.

“I’m not worried for myself, it’s my wife and family I am concerned about. They don’t need to be dealing with this.

“As a councillor I have been verbally abused and threatened many times, I just take it on the chin, but to set fire to my vehicles, so close to my family’s home, it’s just not on.”

Coun Milburn was first made aware of the blaze when his son came home at about 10pm.

He then called the emergency services.

He said: “I was rather shocked as you can imagine.

“Both the vehicles were on a bit of land I own at the back of the garden. I was using the van as a kind of shed, it needed fixing up so I was storing things in it.

“The car also needed a bit of work done to it - so I was just keeping them both there out of the way.

“I hope who ever did this is caught, I am just thankful that nobody was injured.”

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “At about 10.20pm on March 31, police received a report of a van on fire on Sunniside Lane, Cleadon.

“Emergency services attended after it was reported that a Peugeot Boxer was on fire. No one was injured.

“The fire was extinguished and enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances of the incident.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police via 101 and quoting reference number 1071 31/03/19.