POLICE are appealing for witnesses after part of Dudley town centre was brought to a halt during last Saturday lunchtime when a charity shop fell victim to a suspected arson attack

Fire completely gutted The Extra Care Charitable Trust shop in Castle Street forcing police to evacuate nearby buildings and close roads in Dudley town centre.

The alarm was raised at 12.23pm and it took firefighters over an hour to bring the blaze under control.

At the height of the blaze fire crews from Dudley, Brierley Hill and Ladywood were at the scene.

Later forensic examination suggested the fire had been started deliberately which has since sparked a major police investigation.

A police spokesman confirmed: "A number of witnesses and staff from nearby businesses have been spoken to and work is continuing to identify CCTV coverage which may have captured the culprit on camera."

The shop, which is situated between Cash Converters and Greggs, has since been boarded up

Richard Tower, who is communications manager for the Extra Care Charitable Trust said: "Our main concern was for the staff and volunteers at the shop and making sure they were evacuated safely.

"Our charity shops are very valuable to us and we are currently working with the police and fire brigade to give them every assistance".

Anyone with information should call West Midlands Police on 101