Update: Arson investigation launched into canal boat blaze

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A man trying to rebuild his life following the death of his younger brother has been left homeless after his boat was torched.

John James Stringer, 24, lost all of his belongings in the early morning blaze on Wednesday which police have confirmed is being treated as suspected arson.

“To lose everything in this way is just soul-destroying,” said John. “I’m absolutely broken.”

The attack happened at around 5.45am after John, a commis chef, had left for work.

The boat, which was moored at Old Fishery Lane on the Grand Union Canal, was completely gutted – destroying all of John’s possessions including items belonging to his late brother Hector who took his own life two years ago.

“This has been the worst couple of years for me and my family,” said John. “This boat was a real rebuild of my life. It was my sanctuary.”

John admits that he struggled to cope with Hector’s death, and that had culminated in him staying at homelessness charity DENS for four months before he bought his boat in November.

“This was the one place I could call my home,” said John. “It started off as a project to give it a bit of a makeover but eventually I stripped it out and started again.

“That boat really was my whole life.”

Former Tring School pupil John insists there is no way the blaze could have been an accident, and is anxious for the culprits to be tracked down.

“I’m so safety conscious,” he said, “Anything flammable is left off the boat on the bank so there’s no way this was an accident.

“The people that did this are scum, Why would anyone go out and ruin someone’s life like that?

“We’re not living in an enemy state – we are meant to be looking after each other.”

John is now planning on spending a few days with his parents Belinda and Robert in Chivery, near Tring, while he decides what to do next.

And although he is distraught by the incident, he admits he is lucky to be alive.

He said: “I think I’m very lucky to be honest because although I had a way of getting out of the boat in emergencies, the way the fire engulfed the boat was absolutely horrific.”