Squatters target Muswell Hill hostel damaged by fire

People living in a Muswell Hill hostel gutted by suspected arson have been forced to leave their homes as squatters tried to move into the property.

Residents returning to collect possessions after a fire forced them to leave flats in Queens Avenue, found the ground floor windows smashed and glass on the floor.

Police were called to the scene in the early hours of Thursday, December 22 after a neighbour heard the sounds of a break-in.

One resident, Giuseppe, actually witnessed the break-in.

He said: “I heard the sound of smashing glass. Police came to the scene within five minutes. They told me they found two windows open at the back of the flat, with a ladder leaning against one.”

A police spokesman said: “We arrived at the scene at 3am and arranged for a helicopter as well. Those trying to break-in made off.

“It was not a burglary, which leads us to suspect squatters may be involved.”

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Fire crews were called to the house on Saturday, December 17, after a resident reported smoke coming from a first floor flat.

Firefighters took 40 minutes to put out the fire.

The first floor flat suffered fire damage and the upper floors were damaged by smoke and the ground floor by water.

One resident said: “I could smell smoke coming from the flat below mine, and got out as quickly as I could.

“Thankfully, the woman who lived in flat above was out when the fire started. I have been told the fire was probably arson. I have had to get rid of most of my possessions because they are damaged by smoke.”

Giuseppe, who also saw the fire, said: “The first floor flat was properly on fire. We were very scared. I am worried for myself and my children if the property remains empty. It could be used by squatters or worse.”

Haringey Council owns the hostel, which is used for temporary accommodation and consists of 12 bedsits and one-bedroom flats.

A spokesman said: “The fire was confined to one room and contained in that room.

“No-one was injured and damage was light.

“All occupants have been found alternative accommodation. The building is being made secure and the council’s contractor has carried out an initial inspection.

“We can’t say at this stage when the building will be brought back into use.”