An ice-cream man has been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after arsonists callously torched two of his vans as part of a bitter turf war.
Tony Del Busso, 50, better known as Mr Cool, believes rival sellers have targeted his family-run business in an ongoing row over pitches in Hinkley, Leicstershire. He fears competitors set fire to both of his vans as part of an ice-cream war which has raging in the local area for a matter of months.
Tony says up to four ice cream men have been working on his patch but so far he has not experienced any aggression from rival traders. But he is convinced they are behind an arson attack on his Mr Cool and Super Whippy vans outside his home in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Tony and his wife Yvonne were awoken around midnight to find both of the vans engulfed in flames on their driveway. The fire spread to their house, destroying their garage, bedroom and part of the roof and causing around £70,000 worth of damage.
The couple have been running the business for around eight years, with each driving one of the vans around Hinckley and the surrounding area. Mr Del Busso's father ran the ice-cream business before him, setting up in the late 1970s, but the family say its the first time they have been deliberately targeted.
Mr Del Busso said: "It's a long running family run business and nothing like this has happened before. "We suspect because of the fact they targeted two ice-cream vans, it was something to do with competitors stopping us from trading.
"There are numerous rivals, around three of four of them working on the same patch, but it's never comes to aggression.
"Nine times out of ten you just accept somebody else got there first. In busy periods it can get a bit heated but we rarely clash with each other.
"There are occasions where you turn up on the same road at the same time and your pitches overlap. Whether somebody has taken exception to that, I don't know.
"I think it could be a trade war. It's destroyed the business. It's on hold now and we are considering our future. This time of year, we are heavily booked for events. We can't do these until we get a replacement van.
"I have heard about ice-cream wars happening but never locally. It's frightening to think we could be at the centre of one."
Leicestershire Police have launched an investigation into the fire and urged witnesses to get in touch. A force spokesperson said: "We're investigating after two vans were set on fire and are asking for any witnesses to make contact.