Neighbour's dog alerts businessman and family targeted by arson 'hate attack

A businessman and his family were targeted in an arson attack which police are treating as a suspected race hate crime.

Mac Karlekar, 44, and his wife and 15-year-old son fled their home in Orpington after their hedge was set on fire.

Mr Karlekar has told how he was woken up in the early hours of the morning by neighbours, who were alerted by the “uncontrollable” barking of their dog Maggie.

The neighbours opened their window and saw the blaze, then they called the fire brigade and ran towards the house.

Mr Karlekar said: “The neighbours who woke us up saved our lives. Maggie has been an angel in disguise.”

The family looked on in horror as 15-foot flames licked at the window of Mr Karlekar’s son’s bedroom.

Police have now launched an arson investigation and said they are treating the incident as a possible hate crime.

Officers believe one of a group of four people started the fire in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mr Karlekar, who owns a digital consultancy firm, added: “We are all in a shocked state about how someone can light a fire to a house where people’s lives get threatened.

“If this fire was not controlled, it would have spread to the entire neighbourhood — families with little kids and elderly people who may not have been lucky to vacate on time like us.

"If these people are not caught they could do it to others and someone could be seriously hurt or killed. I didn’t lose anything in the fire but I did lose confidence. These people do not understand the danger of what they did.”

Mr Karlekar, who has lived in the UK for 20 years, said CCTV from neighbouring homes showed a group fleeing the scene in Borkwood Park down a nearby alleyway.

The fire damaged the house and two cars parked on the street. Two fire engines and 10 firefighters were called to the scene.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Officers attended and reviewed CCTV. One suspect, aged about 18, who was with three other people, was seen to set fire to the hedge and make off. This is being treated as a hate crime.”

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: “A garden conifer hedge was destroyed by the fire and two cars and guttering and PVC windows were damaged by heat.”

There have been no arrests.

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