'I will not be driven out'

PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:49 10 June 2010

A DEFIANT Exmouth restaurateur has vowed to stay open after a suspected arson attack put his family at risk and caused £30,000 damage. Entrepreneur Serkan Halilogullari told The Journal that in the early hours of Sunday at least two people kicked down the

A DEFIANT Exmouth restaurateur has vowed to stay open after a suspected arson attack put his family at risk and caused £30,000 damage.Entrepreneur Serkan Halilogullari told The Journal that in the early hours of Sunday at least two people kicked down the Tower Street door of his ground floor Cafe Samritz.They went upstairs to his first floor restaurant, The Olive Stone, and - using petrol - set fire to a store room and the foot of the stairwell - leading to where his mother was sleeping.He said: "If my mother had not woken up or my father not come back, the whole building would have burnt to the ground."They set light to the store room where the extractor fan was, knowing it would spread the fire."They set fire to the bottom of the stairs, knowing there was no other way out - they knew the building very well."He says that when his father came back, he put out the fires before fire crews from Budleigh Salterton arrived.Mr Halilogullari, who moved here in March 2006, believes the attack is part of a vendetta to put him out of business.The intruders smashed glasses and 'crossed' the cutlery on the tables - leaving him in no doubt it was left as a warning."I have had my car vandalised - I think people are jealous. I wanted to open an upmarket restaurant for the town, and I have put too much money into it to just give up. "I'm not going to let these people drive me out. I don't care about myself, but I am worried about my wife and two children."Fire investigator Bill Harvison said: "In my view, it was started intentionally. There were three fires in independent places and there were signs of a break in."Glass was smashed and a shoe mark was on the door. It all points to the fires being started deliberately."A police spokesman said: "No arrests have been made and we are reviewing CCTV footage of the area."It was a busy evening and people were about. If anybody saw anything, please contact Crimestoppers." Mr Halilogullari said the Olive Stone would not open again upstairs and he had 'other plans' for it - but he would open downstairs from Monday.If you have any information, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111, quoting crime reference number KE/08/29/87.

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