This is the moment a callous arsonist stops to admire their work – filming one of the world’s smallest libraries as it is burnt to the ground.
The grainy CCTV image, captured by a neighbour’s camera, shows the offender taking out their phone and capturing the moment as they destroy the phone box book exchange in the village of Clent, near Stourbridge.
And as firefighters tackled the early-morning blaze, a car was also set on fire nearby.
Now, the charred remains of hundreds of books still lie inside the blackened skeleton of what was the red phone box, one of the world’s smallest libraries on Bromsgrove Road.
As yet, the identity of the offender remains a mystery.
Residents have vowed not to be beaten, and a fundraising drive is already under way so that the phone box can be restored.
There are also said to be a number of parties interested in opening another book exchange once the box has been reconstructed.
Paul Timmins is chairman of the Clent History Society, which was behind the original project to restore the phone box, and he lives nearby.
He said: “It was about 1.30am and a few local residents heard funny noises.
“What we were listening to was the sound of the glass panels breaking.
“While the fire brigade were here they had a call to go down the road to attend a car fire too.
“Someone got a rough CCTV image, and they actually took a picture on their phone while the phone box was ablaze.”
Unfortunately the CCTV image is not clear enough to identify the offender, who struck on July 28.
Mr Timmins added that he hopes conscience will get the better of the offender, and they will donate heavily to the drive for funds.
He said: “It was a pointless act of destruction, there’s no gain for the person that did it, and the consequence for the rest of the village is that it’s created a lot of upset.
“But it has created a talking point of the phone box, and in one respect it has created a bit of community spirit because people are discussing it.
“It was in the summer holiday, so I would see parents with little children going up there to change their books, and they were coming away upset.
“It was a service for the whole village, it was part of their lives
“Since the fire I’ve left it as it is purposely for people to see the devastation.
“But how can you make a proper comment about the arsonist?
“I just hope they make a good donation for it, and also learn the error of their ways.”
The society is looking to collect around £1,000 to restore the phone box, and has already been in touch with Avoncroft Museum, near Bromsgrove – which is home to the national telephone kiosk collection – about its collection to see whether it can help with the reconstruction.
Mr Timmins added: “We are going to renovate it.
“We are not going to be beaten.
“When it’s renovated we’ve got a couple of people seriously interested to manage it as a library.”
The police have not yet been able to identify the offender of either the telephone box fire or the car fire, which also happened on Bromsgrove Road near Clent Nurseries.
They have not said the two incidents are linked.
A spokesman for West Mercia Police said: “Anyone with information about the fires can contact 101, and quote incident number 62 of July 28.”
The society originally bought the phone box from BT for a token £1, and painted it with a Union Jack on top. After its refurbishment members of the community suggested it be used as a book exchange, with the number of books inside growing without an appeal for donations.
It also contained a box full of around 100 children’s books, flyers for community events and photos documenting the history of the village.
An extra shelf had to be installed to deal with the number of books inside.
If anyone would like to donate to help the restoration, cheques made payable to the Clent History Society can be sent to Yew Tree Cottage, Bromsgrove Road, Holy Cross, Clent, Worcestershire, DY9 9QF.Subscribe to our Newsletter