The damaged remains of the Kewpie doll
The damaged remains of the Kewpie doll "Jacaranda Jill” set alight in Market Square Adam Hourigan

Vandals set fire to Jaca doll in 'despicable' act

THE GIANT kewpie doll that has stood proud in Market Square for this year's Jacaranda Festival has caught fire in what is believed to be the work of vandals

Drivers from Grafton Taxis spotted the fire in between jobs just after 10pm and called 000.

Coffs/Clarence Police District Chief Inspector Joanne Reid said that police and fire services received calls on Friday night that the doll in Market Square was on fire.

Both services responded within minutes, but the blaze had been extinguished before they arrived.

While the scene shocked many onlookers, there was relief that only the dolls original skirt was damaged, not the main headpiece.

"A lot of people have witnessed people around and in the vicinity not long beforehand," Insp Reid said.

"We have a couple of suspects we believe may be responsible, and we will be following that up.

"There was a bong located underneath doll, and we've taken that and will see if we can get forensic evidence from that."

 

A witness photo of the Jacaranda Jill doll as it catches fire in Market Square.
A witness photo of the Jacaranda Jill doll as it catches fire in Market Square. Contributed

Insp Reid said police would also examine CCTV in the area for further evidence.

"It's a pretty disgraceful act," she said. "This is our big Jacaranda Festival, and we're really disappointed it's been ruined by idiots who decided to set fire to something designed to make the festival a bit more attractive.

"We do have a couple of leads, but also encourage anyone with any information to contact Coffs/Clarence Police."

Footage of the blaze as it happened appeared on a local Instagram profile, and as police were conducting investigations, numerous groups of teenagers ran through the park laughing at bystanders.

Former Grafton City Council deputy mayor Peter McKenna, who was visiting friends in Grafton for the first time in nine years witnessed the fire from a nearby balcony.

"It's despicable," he said. "We saw it catch ablaze, and couldn't believe what they had done, just the vandalism of it," he said.

Mr McKenna, who had lived across the street from Market Square for many years and witnessed many incidents in the park, said he had been admiring of how well kept and beautiful the park was this year.

"To see this here this afternoon was spectacular," he said. "It was just an innocent Kewpie doll and it being set alight is just despicable."

The six-metre tall doll was a crucial part of the Sydney 2000 Olympics Games closing ceremony, and was renamed Jacaranda Jill as part of this year's festival.

 



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