Fire at former trainer Howard Johnson’s yard “suspicious”

A fire at former racehorse trainer Howard Johnson’s farm is being treated as “suspicious” by police.

Around 800 bales of hay — estimated to be worth about £12,000 — were destroyed by in the fire on Monday (5 November).

Police were alerted by the fire service to a blaze at White Lea Farm, Roddymoor, Crook, just before 6.30pm.

Three fire crews came out to tackle the fire but it was still being battled the next morning.

Co Durham Police today (Thursday 8 November) told H&H it was treating the fire as “suspicious”.

Police could not start investigating immediately as the fire was still smouldering for 24-hours.

“The scene of the blaze has been assessed by an investigator from the fire service and a police crime scene investigator,” said a police spokesman.

“It is believed there was a group of young people in the vicinity of the farm an hour or so before the fire was detected.”

The fire was the latest in a series of incidents involving the former trainer, who retired last year after receiving a four-year ban from racing.

He had been found guilty for running a horse that had been de-nerved, as well as givinganabolic steroids to three other horses.

In 2010 Johnson and his wife Sue were held at gunpoint when £100,000 was stolen from his home. And in 2009 six gates were stolen from his farm.

Anyone who has any information is asked to contact Crook CID at Durham Constabulary on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.