Victim of West End arson hopes security video will help police catch men who torched his van

A Winnipeg man whose van was set on fire early Wednesday morning caught the whole thing on video and hopes police find the people responsible.

Clothes worn by pair in video appears to match garb left at scene of nearby stabbing

Two people set fire to a van in Winnipeg's West End early Wednesday morning. Video shows the men tossing a bag of burning leaves and a gas can under the van. (Submitted by Rod Murray)

A Winnipeg man whose van was set on fire early Wednesday morning caught the whole thing on video and hopes police find the people responsible.

"Just to sit there and watch my property being vandalized for no reason at all, it's just bizarre," said Rod Murray.

Murray was up late Tuesday evening playing video games on his computer when he walked toward the back of his West End home just after midnight and noticed flames.

He saw bags of leaves burning across the back lane, Murray said. Once he stepped outside he noticed the neighbour's home was also on fire — and so was his van.

Rod Murray suffered second-degree burns to his hand when he tried to put out the fire under his van. His neighbour's home, shown on the left, was also burned Wednesday evening. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"There was fire near the gas tank so I had to try and move the fire away from it," Murray said.

"The part of the bag I hit was the real dry, unburnt part, but the bumper had melted and there was molten bumper in it, so I kind of picked up a handful of that when I swept my hand through."

Murray called 911 and grabbed the hose to try and douse the fire. He said fire crews arrived quickly and put out the fire on the home next door. Everyone made it out safely, Murray said.

He suffered second-degree burns to his right hand, and will see a surgeon Friday to have the bits of melted plastic removed.

He hasn't heard the fate of his van yet but thinks it may be a write-off. 

Caught on video

It wasn't until the following day that Murray watched his security camera footage.

The camera faces the driveway and turns on when it senses motion. When the video starts shortly after midnight, the bags of leaves are already on fire. 

Two young men enter Murray's driveway, triggering the camera, and try opening his back door, which was locked. Then they check the door of the van, which was also locked.

One of the men then drags a burning bag of leaves across the lane and throws it under Murray's van. The men disappear for a few moments and return with a gas container and throw that under the van as well.

A Winnipeg man whose van was set on fire early Wednesday morning caught the whole thing on video and hopes police find who is responsible. 2:22

Murray said he saw another garbage fire further down the back lane that night, and his neighbour's home was damaged.

"So somebody was going around just randomly lighting fires and we got them on video," he said.

Murray feels lucky he caught the fires when he did. 

"I could have been sitting [at the computer] for another 15 minutes, and if I had, that house really would have gone up, and my van could have exploded and caused my house to burn," he said.

Clothing could lead to suspects

To make matters more bizarre, when watching CBC news the following day Murray noticed a striking similarity between the clothing left at the scene of a nearby stabbing and that of the men in the video.

"If you look at those pictures, they seem very similar is all I can say."

One man was wearing a bright blue shirt and and a grey puffy jacket, the other a white T-shirt with what looks like a Guess logo. (Submitted by Rod Murray)
The video shows two young men enter Murray’s driveway an attempt to open his back door, which was locked. (Submitted by Rod Murray)
Clothes discarded at the scene of a stabbing near Murray's home appears to match the garb worn by the men who set fire to his van. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Police were called to Sargent Avenue, just a few blocks from Murray's home, on Wednesday to investigate a stabbing that happened just after 1 a.m. A  man was sent to hospital in critical condition.

Bloody clothing could be seen just outside a convenience store on Sargent Avenue and Beverley Street.

The pile of clothing appears to match the type of clothes worn by the men in the video — one with a grey jacket and bright blue shirt, the other in a white T-shirt with a Guess logo on it.

Police say both incidents are being investigated by the major crimes unit, but won't say if they are connected.

"It would be premature to comment if we believe there is a connection or not," a WPS spokesperson said in an email.

Murray doesn't want to make assumptions about the clothing, but his wife alerted police to the similarities and they hope it helps with the investigation.

Bright lights and good locks

Murray has lived in the area for 14 years and says he's never had any incidents like this before.

"We're pretty sensible about our security, it's really about bright lights and good locks in this neighbourhood and also just being decent to people as well as you can," he said.

"The randomness of this is pretty unstoppable in any neighbourhood, I think." 

Murray works as a restaurant server and was just getting back to work this week, but instead will be off for at least a couple more while his hand heals.

"Right after 2½ months of sitting on my butt, one shift and poof," he said.

"I literally went from sitting and playing a video game to all of a sudden I'm in a hospital looking at my burnt hand going what the heck just happened?"

A Winnipeg man whose van was set on fire early Wednesday morning caught the whole thing on video and hopes police find the people responsible. 2:10