Police search for masked men armed with handgun after prison car park blaze
Ten vehicles are believed to have been damaged following the fire.
Two masked men are on the run after setting fire to several cars outside a prison.
Ten cars were left scorched or completely burnt out after the incident near HMP Birmingham on Tuesday.
Witnesses said one of the men pulled a handgun on prison staff who approached them after spotting suspicious activity on the site.
An insider at the prison said two members of G4S security staff spotted the masked men in the car park, seeing one spraying a liquid on the roofs of the vehicles.
A brazen arson attack on vehicles in a prison staff car park in broad daylight, in Birmingham, today. Two masked men, 1 with a gun, cut their way through perimeter fencing with an angle grinder, doused a car in accelerant, & set a fire. They remain at large. Luckily no one hurt. pic.twitter.com/sJ1lD0dqu9— Richard Vernalls (@rvernallsPA) August 7, 2018
When the pair were challenged, one of them pulled what appeared to be a handgun on the staff, forcing them back.
The liquid was then set alight, starting a fire which spread quickly along the row of parked cars, while the masked men escaped through a gap in the metal fence surrounding the site.
It is understood that security chased after the men, and managed to get the registration number of their getaway vehicle, before passing it to police.
Nobody was injured following the blaze at around 1.30pm, West Midlands Police said.
PRISON ARSON: We've launched an investigation after 2 men broke into a staff car-park at HMP Birmingham today before setting fire to several vehicles. More: https://t.co/4rB4fUSbda pic.twitter.com/RQDV8CXX9A— West Midlands Police (@WMPolice) August 7, 2018
Detective Constable James Farrell said: “Firearms officers were at the prison within minutes, but the offenders had already fled.
“No-one has been injured, but prison staff were understandably alarmed by the incident.
“The motive for the attack is unclear, but we are trawling CCTV to trace the car which made off from the scene.”
Workers at the nearby scrapyard businesses described hearing car alarms going off and coming out to see at least half a dozen cars already well alight.
They told how armed police arrived quickly at the scene, near the prison staff training building, along with other officers in both marked and unmarked cars.
Witness Ajay Kumar, who works at a scrapyard, said he ran out when he saw smoke billowing from the scene.
He said: “I saw four cars alight.
“Then the police were here – they arrived very quickly.”