CIVIC leaders have expressed shock at the arson attacks in Winchester city centre last night.

A man in his 40s remains in custody following his arrest shortly after three incidents, at the Phase Eight shop on the High Street, the Deanery in Cathedral Close and in the yard behind the Bengal Sage restaurant off Upper Brook Street.

Annabelle Boyes, receiver general of Winchester Cathedral, said today: “Clearly we are very disappointed by what has happened, especially as the Deanery Book Sale raises valuable funds to support the education for four of our Boy Choristers from  generous donations of books given by many people throughout the year, and has done so since it was launched by a band of volunteers led by the previous Dean’s wife, Tessa Till, some twelve years ago, and this tradition is carried on by the current residents of The Deanery.

“It is, of course, a great relief that nobody was harmed in the incident.”

Winchester MP Steve Brine said: "This is a horrible start to the new year for Winchester. Any damage is hugely disappointing and will be costly for the businesses affected while the impact on some very old parts of our cathedral will I know make local people very sad indeed.

“Early reports I am receiving suggest this is an isolated incident and the work of one disturbed individual. We need to quickly ascertain why he did this and ensure he not only faces the full force of the law but fully faces up to the people and property he has so clearly disrespected in a few moments of madness last night.”