A heroic neighbour has described how he rescued an elderly man trapped in his Oxford home after an arson attack.

Francis O’Neill, 42, leapt into action after burning material was placed through the letterbox of his neighbour’s home in Kingston Road, Jericho, at 2.45am on Monday, starting a fire. Arsonists also targeted a house in nearby Plantation Road.

Aware that the man, named by Mr O’Neill as Jean Claude Faudot, was trapped inside the first floor of his semi-detached house, Mr O’Neill and other neighbours formed a human ladder to help save the pensioner escape through a window, before the firefighters arrived.

He said the pensioner had been about to fall head first through the window.

Mr Faudot, and a woman, named by Mr O’Neill as the pensioner’s wife Belinda, suffered serious burns in the blaze, which was described by police as a “significant fire”. They were taken to the city’s John Radcliffe Hospital for treatment, where they remain.

Mr O’Neill said his initial reaction on hearing all the noise outside was that someone was just being aggressive. He said: “I walked outside and saw my neighbour trying to climb out of his first floor window, head first.

“He was panicking and grabbing on to the fragile guttering on the slope to jump down and I was worried he would fall down.

Oxford Mail: Hero neighbour Francis O’Neill

Mr O'Neill

“I removed all surrounding objects and tried making a human ladder to support him coming down while others looked around for a proper ladder. Thankfully they found one and I was able to get up close to him and get him down in time. It was what anybody in my position would do.”

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, but witnessed the rescue, said: “Francis took charge and was very calm. He kept himself together and the rest of the neighbours helped with water and ladders. He stopped something catastrophic from happening.”

A family living nearby has already offered their home to the victims for as long as they need.

Neighbours have also set up a GoFundMe page to help the couple rebuild their lives and have already raised £1,800 of their £2,000 target.

Some neighbours said they planned to install CCTV cameras and block their letterboxes to protect themselves from a similar situation.

Investigating officer Detective Inspector James Mather of Oxford CID said: “We are appealing to anyone who might have seen or heard either or both of these two incidents to contact us.

“We are also asking anyone with CCTV or dash-cam footage to check for any footage that could help this investigation. We want to reassure members of the public that Thames Valley Police takes all attacks such as this extremely seriously, and are conducting a thorough investigation. There will be an increased police presence in the area which will remain in place overnight.

“If you have any information or footage that could help this investigation, please call us on 101 quoting reference number 43210319651 or make a report online.”

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