'Arson' destroys diaries that helped Rustington brain-injury victim remember his life

A man who lost all his belongings in a suspected arson said his memories have been taken from him.


Tom Rowland, 46, was taking his elderly neighbours out on Sunday when the fire started at his bungalow in Lawrence Avenue, Rustington before 2.30pm.
The musician is registered disabled after a car accident ten years ago which left him with an acquired brain injury that affects his memory.

Tom Rowland, 46, and his neighbours Roberta Fleeton, 62, and Anthony Quinn, 64, outside Tom's house in Lawrence Avenue, Rustington, which was destroyed in the fire

Tom Rowland, 46, and his neighbours Roberta Fleeton, 62, and Anthony Quinn, 64, outside Tom's house in Lawrence Avenue, Rustington, which was destroyed in the fire

Seven years ago, he started diaries to help him remember – but these were lost in the blaze along with many guitars and recordings.

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He said: “My diaries were the most important thing that I had. They were my memories – and they have been taken away from me.
“I lost three years because of my car accident and now the next seven years are gone as well.”
Anthony Quinn, 64, lives a few doors down from Tom. He first noticed what he thought was a ‘mist’ outside his house – but when he realised it was smoke he called 999.
He said: “The police were very quick, but the fire took hold so fast, it was ridiculous, and then the windows blew out. It was just a massive flame, black smoke, people came running because Tom has pets and we didn’t know if his dog was in there so we tried to kick the door open.
“The fire brigade turned up with their big red key and got in straight away, and hit it with the hosepipes.”
Roberta Fleeton, 62, first heard of the fire when Anthony raised the alarm.
She said: “My first reaction was ‘oh my God’. I ran outside, but I have COPD of the lungs, so I couldn’t stay outside for long.
“It was terrible, awful.”
One of Tom’s cats has gone missing in the blaze, but his other dog and cat are safe.
He is sleeping in his car until he is found somewhere to live by Arun District Council. His next-door neighbours were evacuated and have been relocated.
He said his neighbours had rallied round at his time of need. He said: “I love them all. Their kindness towards me was the difference between life and death at that time.”
Police said a 19-year-old man of no fixed address has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life and assault. A 53-year-old man from Rustington has also been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life.
Both were bailed until October 28.