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Neighbour’s nightmare living next to house that twice burnt down and now ‘risks collapse’

Ordeal began when owner burnt down his home and screamed: "I'm going down with it"

10 August, 2017 — By William McLennan

The property was torched for the second time in March

WHEN neighbours in Chalk Farm were forced to run for their lives as the house next door went up in flames for the second time within weeks, they may have been forgiven for assuming they had endured their share of misfortune for the time being.

But for the families either side of the fire-gutted property in Prince of Wales Road, this was only the start of a bureaucratic “nightmare” which they fear has left their homes liable to collapse, with seemingly no one prepared to take responsibility for fixing the wrecked building next door.

The saga began on the evening of January 6 when Nicholas Templin, a 51-year-old who lived alone in the terraced home he inherited on the death of his mother, Tessa, in 2013, set the property ablaze with several gallons of petrol.

Two police officers risked their lives to drag him from the burning building while he screamed: “I’m the captain of this ship and I’m going down with it.”

He was arrested and taken to Pentonville Prison on remand before being transferred to Chase Farm secure mental hospital, where he could now remain for the rest of his life after being found guilty of arson at Blackfriars Crown Court last month.

The home was not insured and, insisting it was the responsibility of Mr Templin, neither the fire brigade, police nor Camden Council took responsibility for boarding up the property.

Instead, it was left derelict and wide open, until three months later it was torched once again, in an unrelated arson attack for which the culprits have yet to be apprehended.

This time the flames had taken hold before firefighters arrived. While they were able to stop the blaze spreading, the property was largely destroyed, leaving it open to the elements and lacking a supporting roof beam.

Viji Thangavelu, who lives next door, has paid close attention to the weather ever since.

With her party wall exposed, the 67-year-old fears any heavy downpour could seep into her home through the porous brick-work.

She has been living with the daily fear that her home will flood or subside for the past four months.

“I’m literally exhausted,” she said this week. “I don’t know what else I can do. Every time it rains, it affects my basement wall again. It’s a nightmare.”

Ms Thangavelu, who works as an accountant, had been intending to sell her home and retire, but she now fears that the property she worked a lifetime to own has been devalued by tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds.

Before sentencing Mr Templin to an indefinite hospital order last month, Judge Sally Cahill QC read a heartfelt plea for assistance, written by Ms Thangavelu.

The letter detailed the health impacts of the anxiety and said that: “While [Mr Templin] is being fed, clothed and housed at taxpayers’ expense we… are forced to face the adversity of living next to a derelict property.”

In April, the council issued a “dangerous structure enforcement notice”, giving Mr Templin, who was detained awaiting trial, 21 days to make the property safe.

The property was boarded up two weeks after the blaze when Haverstock councillor Abdul Quadir intervened.

After being contacted by the New Journal yesterday (Wednesday), he pledged to take up the question of the building’s safety.

A Town Hall spokesman said: “Cam- den Council has been carrying out regular visual inspections of the property and has not observed any change to its structural condition. Given the property is now a longterm empty home we are working to get it back into use.”

In the meantime, Ms Thangavelu’s anxious wait goes on.

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