A BELOVED former pub in Oxford has been torn apart by an arson attack.

The Jack Russell in Marston was half-destroyed in the fire just before midnight.

More than 30 firefighters battled the blaze into the small hours of this morning.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said there were 'signs that people had recently been inside'.

Oxford Mail:

Police have said the building "sustained significant damage" and are now hunting for the arsonist, but officers said no-one was injured.

Marston resident Joshua Oxendale was alerted to the blaze last night when he heard fire engine sirens screaming past his house on nearby Mortimer Drive.

This morning he captured these incredible drone photographs of the damage.

The 23-year-old said: "When I went out last night the entire pub was up in flames, there were about four fire engines and an ambulance.

"It was huge, we thought the pub was near-enough burnt to the ground."

The attack comes after years of campaigning by locals first to get the pub re-opened then to get it turned into a community facility.

Mr Oxendale, who has lived in Marston for seven months, added: "It's horrible because I know people wanted it to become something for the community, and that would have been great.

Oxford Mail:

  • Marston city councillor Mick Haines

"I was getting fed up with driving past and seeing kids just sat on old sofas outside this empty, derelict building."

Police are now appealing for witnesses to the attack.

Investigating officer PC Adam Scarratt, based at Cowley police station, said: "I would like to speak to anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area at around the time of the incident.

"I would also appeal to anyone with any information about what happened to speak to officers."

The Jack Russell Pub, in Salford Road, has stood derelict since it was sold by brewery Greene King in October 2015.

The owner submitted a planning application this year to transform the site into 16 flats and 19 car parking spaces.

That application was due to be decided by Oxford City Council this week until the application was withdrawn.

Oxford city councillor for Marston Mick Haines, who has fought the housing plan from the off, welcomed the news the plan had been withdrawn, saying "Hopefully now we can get a public place there or something for the community".

Marston has seen a wave of pubs close down in recent years, including The Friar, on the corner of Marston Road and Old Marston Road, which was demolished in 2013 and turned into the Friar Court flats.

The Bricklayers pub, in Church Lane, also closed in 2010 and subsequently became a housing development.

The Cavalier pub, in Copse Lane, followed shortly afterwards and was replaced by flats after being demolished in 2012. 

A joint investigation by the police and fire service has concluded that the fire at the Jack Russell was arson.

Oxford Mail:

Incident commander Paul Webster said: "Thanks to the swift action of fire service crews the incident was brought to a safe conclusion.

"I would recommend that anyone who has responsibility for an unoccupied building ensures that their premises are kept secure to reduce the risk of arson."