10th June 1887
Arsonist is arrested after being burned by his own fire
When Mr Collenette’s fancy jewellery and hair shop burned down on 7 June 1887, the blaze was so fierce it could be seen right across St Helier. The building caught light some time around two in the morning, and suspicion immediately fell on Edward Humphries, a young man who was badly burned by the flames.
The fire, at 1 King Street, was discovered by two men – Etasse and Dolbeck – who were on their way back home from catching sand eels and they were able to raise the alarm before anyone lost their lives. However, they were not there soon enough to save the building, which was so badly damaged that only the outer walls remained standing. These had to be knocked down so they wouldn’t fall on passers-by.
A lengthy firefight
Nonetheless, two fire engines, several police officers and the army spent more than 90 minutes tackling the blaze in an effort to stop it spreading. They were largely successful, although the pub directly behind lost its roof.
Several days later, while unable to leave his home due to his serious injuries, Humphries was arrested and charged with starting the blaze. Collenette, who had lost both his stock and his shop, was generous enough to put up the £100 bail for his temporary release although, as the suspected arsonist was confined to his bed, the risk of him absconding must have seemed quite remote, and the bail bond safe.
The Star later reported that Humphreys had planned to open his own shop close to Collenette’s shop, with which it would compete directly. This had been enough to put the men, former friends, at odds with one another and it was thought that this had been the reason for Humphrey’s dastardly act. How else could he explain his presence on the premises around half an hour before the fire was discovered?
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