Former youth worker homeless after arsonists burn houseboat which he lived in while mooring across Fenland

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke. - Credit: Archant

Arsonists left a former youth worker homeless and penniless after they burgled his house boat and returned a day later to burn it down.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke. - Credit: Archant

To cap it all Middle Level Commissioners hoisted the shell of the burnt-out boat from the river at Kings Dyke, near Whittlesey and billed him £5,800 clearance charges.

“If they had given me another 24 hours I could’ve arranged for a friend to tow it away,” said Pete Demkiw.

Mr Demkiw spent 15 years building the boat and named it Cicely Mary in memory of his mother who died when he was a teenager.

But it was destroyed when arsonists torched the vessel while he was taking one of his three Jack Russell terriers to a vet in Yorkshire where he used to live.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke. - Credit: Archant


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Police suspect the culprits broke in to steal the boat’s engine and other items and returned the next day to torch the evidence.

His plight has prompted a Go Fund Me page set up by a man he has never met, who wants to raise £20,000 so that Mr Demkiw can retrieve the hull of his boat and rebuild it back to its former glory. (Click here to visit the Go Fund Me page)

Mr Demkiw said: “In spite of everything I have no bad feelings towards the people who destroyed my home. The support I have got from strangers has eclipsed the feeling that I was badly treated.

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“I have seen this as a positive thing in a way. It has shown me that the world is still full of good people.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke. - Credit: Archant

“I’m more distraught at what Middle Level has done to me. As an organisation it’s an incredibly cold thing to have done”.

Mr Demkiw said: “My mum was a nurse; I had her fob watch on the boat. My dad’s old clock was there and the walls were lined with all my old family photographs. All gone.

“These are things I can’t get back, but if I can get the shell I stand a chance of rebuilding it.”

Two years ago Mr Demkiw, who suffered a breakdown following bereavement, decided to navigate the waterways from his home in Yorkshire back to where he grew up in Cambridgeshire.

Fire crews were called to extinguish a narrowboat fire on Kings Dyke, Whittlesey. Picture: CAMBS FIR

Fire crews were called to extinguish a narrowboat fire on Kings Dyke, Whittlesey. Picture: CAMBS FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE - Credit: Archant

He moved his boat between March, Upell, Benwick and Ramsey and did odd jobs for people but mainly lived on the good will of friends who brought him food.

Before the attack he had moored his boat at Kings Dyke. “Boats seem to run in my family,” said Mr Demkiw.

“My father was Ukranian and escaped the Germans in the last war and made his way across France then stole a boat to come to England.

“He was arrested on his arrival and put in a work camp that is now Gartree Prison. On his release he worked on fields in Peterborough, the town where he met my mum.”

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke.

The boat belonging to Peter Demkiw that burnt out at Kings Dyke. - Credit: Archant

He said: “My wish more than anything is to get my boat back and start again.”

Iain Smith, Middle Level chief executive, said the boat had to be removed as it was an obstruction that needed to be dealt with quickly.

He said: “We contacted the owner who said he was in Yorkshire and couldn’t do anything about it immediately so we had to remove it.

“I would ask him to please write in and our members will consider his case.”

“A police spokesman said: “It is thought the fire was started deliberately.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

To help, click here to visit the Go Fund Me Peter’s Fire Fund page.

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