Northampton family business sees fully restored Land Rover Defender set on fire in suspected theft attempt

The family-run Italian food company said that the incident will only make them stronger

By Max Pearson
Thursday, 30th December 2021, 11:12 am

A family-run street food company in Northamptonshire saw its newly restored Land Rover set on fire in what the owners suspect was a botched attempt to steal it.

Police confirmed the incident took place at the Royal Ordnance Depot in Weedon Bec, some time between 5pm on December 27 and 9am on December 28.

The Land Rover Defender, which is owned by Santina’s Wood Fired Pizza Co, reportedly had its passenger side window smashed and the inside subsequently set alight.

The company hopes that insurance could cover the damages

Oliver Nesbitt, founder and joint owner of Santina’s Wood Fired Pizza Co, said that it was 'very sad' because his father, Paul, spent a lot of time restoring the Defender and it was almost finished.

He said: "We hope that someone has just tried to steal it because Defenders are relatively basic and easy to break into.

"We feel like, because it's a collectible, someone thought they could try and take it.

"Then, once they realised it had no gearbox and couldn't be driven away, they've burned it to cover their tracks."

The Land Rover Defender was a significant part of the company's image

Oliver helped to start the company in August 2020 as a charity. Its service provided food for people caught out by shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Then, when Oliver lost his job with a shoe manufacturer in Northampton, he decided to go all in on his new catering business.

He has since employed his mother, Santina, from whom the company is named and who makes a lot of the authentic Italian food, as well as his father and his partner. Ownership is shared with his brother-in-law Sam Mendel.

Oliver said: "We started this company as a charity to help people and now this has happened.

"It had been fully restored. We spent lots of time, money and effort on it. We wanted to create this really cool vehicle that was recognisable all around Northampton.

"Now that's all gone and it's very sad.

"This is going to set us back massively. We've got so many events booked in for next year. A lot of people have booked our service for weddings and the like, but they booked the Land Rover as well."

Sam Mendel, who joint owns Santina’s Wood Fired Pizza Co, pointed out that the suspected arson has cost their company dearly, but that there was still some good to be found in the ashes.

Sam said: "We'll have to see whether we can afford to do a full restoration of the Land Rover or whether we'll have to scrap it.

"But we still want to promote positivity and, although this is a not very nice thing that's happened, the amount of support we've had has been amazing.

"People from all over the country, and lots of food companies from Northampton, have reached out to us.

"It goes from being reminded that there are bad people out there to realising there are lots of good people out there too, who will have your back if you need it.

The company has now launched a GoFundMe to try and recover what they can. Anyone who is interested can visit their page.