London charity bus which helped “at risk” young people hit by ‘arson attack’ in Hatfield Heath

PUBLISHED: 10:23 26 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:23 26 April 2018

Before and after: the bus was dessimated in a fire on April 21. Pictures: CONTRIBUTED

Before and after: the bus was dessimated in a fire on April 21. Pictures: CONTRIBUTED

Archant

A red double-decker bus in Hatfield Heath which was destroyed in a fire staged music production courses for “at risk” youths, with the aim of “ending gang violence in London”, according to its owner.

Justin Finlayson, 39, owner of the bus and creator of the United Borders project, based in north west London, says the top floor of the bus mirorred a class-room environment with desks and a projector screen where gang members could learn to produce music.

Firefighters were called to the fire at The Heath at 2am on April 21 and extinguished the fire by 3am.

Mr Finlayson, a bus driver, has now created a JustGiving page to raise funds for a new bus, with the aim of raising £80,000 and says he started the project in August after two young people were killed in drive-by shootings in his estate.

“The last man who died went to university and his mum had heart disease and he was her main carer, and I thought I have got to do something more. I can’t just be an observer.”

Mr Finlayson’s own son, a personal trainer, survived after being stabbed 10 times in January.

“We also offer pathways to counselling, which young people need, we try to create a family experience, we never judge them.”

On the JustGiving page Mr Finlayson wrote: “I set out to use this bus to unite borders cut off by violence. We bring an end to rivalries by providing jobs, mediation and a skill in music.”

The bus has been in the village since Apirl 16, when Mr Finlayson broke down on the way to a local farm, where he keeps the bus. After heavy rain the bus became stuck in the mud and a tractor had to pull it out.

“When I heard about the fire my heart sank... I have got funding, and I was going to change the top of the bus into a party bus for young people when I’m not running the courses. It is not just me who it affects, all the young people are losing out.”

He added: “The guy who pulled out the bus did it for free because it was the right thing to do, it is a nice village.”

Mr Finlayson believes the fire was “destroyed by an arsonist”.

A spokesman for Essex Fire Service said: “the cause of the fire has been recorded as undertermined, meaning there was not enough evidence to verify if the cause was accidental or deliberate.”

My Finlayson said the remains of the bus would be removed within the next few days.

So far £120 has been raised, with local villagers donating.

If you would like to donate go to: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/unitedbordersorg?utm_term=JGpG9QxyA.

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