“It seems the bigger and more dangerous the fire, the less scrutiny it receives.” We’re calling on readers to share information to help crack the case of the Strachan and Henshaw fire.
Since the Strachan and Henshaw building in Speedwell went up in flames on May 3, rumours have festered over what triggered the fire, and if it was deliberate.
40-odd business tenants have been left in limbo since that fateful evening, with the Dubai-registered landlord staying unhelpfully quiet.
From the outset, the fire at the building – famed for its swingers club and bikers – was treated as potential arson. Police say the investigation is ongoing, but proof of criminal negligence or arson hasn’t emerged.
Now the investigation itself is being scrutinised by tenants. Namely, why it took police a full two months before taking statements from people who were in the building, known locally as The Office, when the fire started. Meanwhile, a forensic investigation of the property was ruled out because of structural safety concerns and asbestos contamination, and the site returned to the landlord.
“It seems the bigger and more dangerous the fire, the less scrutiny it receives,” one tenant told the Cable.
The building was owned by rogue landlord Alan Dykes, until he sold the freehold for a generous £1 to Douglas Homes Housing Incorporated in 2018. The sale raised eyebrows, not least because the company is registered to Dubai.
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said the landlord, Douglas Homes Housing Incorporated, must foot the bill for the clear up. But identifying the legal owner behind the company has proven tricky thanks to the secretive UAE jurisdiction which grants no public access to company data.
So, who owns the Dubai company? Speaking on the condition of anonymity, police, council staff and tenants point to Wayne Braund – Dykes’ long term business partner and construction entrepreneur. However, on paper Braund is simply the majority shareholder of the building management company acting on behalf of the landlord, Braund Lettings Ltd.
Braund ran a string of companies until he was disqualified as a director in 2018. Breaching a disqualification order, by directing a British or overseas company operating in the UK, is a criminal offence, punishable by up to two years imprisonment. And so it was that Braund stepped down, and associates of his became directors, as did his son, who coincidentally was appointed director of similarly named Douglas Homes (Bristol) Ltd on the day of the fire.
Government agency the Health and Safety Executive say they will be monitoring the complex clear-up of the site. They are no strangers to Alan Dykes and Wayne Braund. Dykes has been a thorn in the side of the HSE for years and was jailed for eight months in 2015 for shocking health and safety offences at the Speedwell building.
As for the displaced tenants, Braund is nowhere to be seen. And Dykes is keen to distance himself from this latest saga, telling the Cable: “I don’t own it, it’s gone, and that’s the end of the story.
“I’m hearing all sorts of rumours to do with that site. The thing is if I say nothing, that’s the best way innit… [Strachan and Henshaw] is too political.”
To be continued…
Wayne Braund did not respond, and Alan Dykes refused to respond to the Cable’s requests for comment.
Help us investigate this story. Have you got information?
We treat all tip-offs confidentially.
Contact Cable journalist Alon: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07533718547