FIREFIGHTERS tackled a blaze in a van on a quiet country lane near Winchester early on Thursday.

Arson is suspected as the cause of the fire that wrecked a white Renault van parked on Port Lane between Oliver's Battery and Hursley at around midnight.

A crew from Winchester attended the fire near the junction of Port Lane and Millers Lane, close to Down Farm and next to the SSE electricity sub-station

Crew manager Pete Broomfield, of Winchester Fire Station, said the signs were clear that the fire had been started deliberately. "Something was stuffed in the fuel pipe and it all smelt strongly of petrol."

The vehicle was loaded with assorted items.

The crew tackled it with two breathing apparatus. Their efforts were hampered because the vehicle was locked and they had to break in.

Police are investigating.

A police spokesman said: "This incident is being treated as arson. The van is believed to have been stolen from outside an address in Wolfe Close, Winchester. An investigation is underway. No arrests have been made at this stage."

Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting the crime reference number 44190288629.