Cheltenham fire blaze couple: Going on holiday saved our lives
A COUPLE'S decision to stay an extra day on holiday may have saved their lives – but cost them their home.
Michael and Val Hall, both 68, are faced with rebuilding their lives after their home of 20 years was destroyed by fire following a suspected burglary.
Mr Hall, a retired engineer and his chiropodist wife were left with the clothes they stood up in after the blaze at Edendale Road.
Mr Hall added: "We decided to stay an extra day on holiday in our caravan, otherwise we would have been upstairs asleep.
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"The first we heard about it was when our son and son-in-law drove 80 miles to tell us.
"We've got to move on. There's a lot of shock and anxiety."
Although impossible to tell, it is believed that the only things stolen in the early hours on October 1 were the contents of two money boxes and a watch.
The money boxes, belonging to their grandchildren and containing just £30 were smashed open and left in an upstairs bedroom.
Investigating officers believe a burglary may have taken place in the home and that the fire was started intentionally.
Mr and Mrs Hall are now appealing for help from the community to track down the people responsible for turning their treasured possessions to ash.
"I'm appealing to the community to tell the police who did this before they kill somebody," said Mrs Hall, a mother-of-five, who managed to retrieve photos of her late father from the blaze. "Somebody might have seen something. What will these people do next?"
It could be up to a year before they are allowed back in their property, as insurers and building experts negotiate over its renovation.
Mrs Hall said the couple would have died from the smoke fumes had they been at home, because their bedroom was above the main seat of the fire, in the living room.
The home they treasured in the small estate off Fiddler's Green Lane is a blackened shell, containing few items.
The ceiling in the living room – the seat of the inferno – remains stabilised by metal props, its contents are unrecognisable save for a computer and a fireplace.
Upstairs in the bedroom, the bed had been piled high with items such as perfume and clothes - every item clogged with ash. Mrs Hall said:"Every time I come back here it looks worse. We were in a terrible state of shock.
"We wouldn't be here if we hadn't been away. I can't believe that we will ever get back to normal. I can't believe it's happened. It's like I'm looking in at someone else's life."
Mr and Mrs Hall, who are to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year, have been living in a hotel since then and are due to move into rented accommodation.
Mr Hall said: "You take the things in life for granted, then all of a sudden they're not there."
To contact Gloucestershire police with information, call 101 and quote incident number 35 of October 1.