WAR: Three ice cream vans were set on fire in Luton (stock image: YouTube)
POLICE are investigating a suspected "ice cream turf war" after three separate sellers' vans were targeted by arsonists within minutes of each other in one town.
Ice cream vendors in three areas of Luton awoke to find their vehicles had been torched overnight.
Police believe the attacks could be linked as they happened within the space of just seven minutes.
Ice cream wars peaked in the 1980s in Glasgow and London.
Organised criminals with fleets of vans at prime locations fought for control of the lucrative trade with vans even used as cover for selling drugs or fencing stolen goods.
In Glasgow the violence peaked in April 1984 when six members of the Doyle family were murdered in an arson attack on their home that had been meant as a warning.
Meanwhile, in London Essex businessman Billy Blundell, 75, who with brother Eddie, 77, built up a lucrative fleet of ice cream vans serving tourist traps in London shot three members of a rival gang in broad daylight on Ilford High Street in east London.
He was charged with attempted murder, but a jury cleared him, saying he acted in self defence.
BUSINESSMEN: Billy (left) and Eddie Blundell (Pictures: YouTube)
Ice cream turf wars continue but tend to be between rival individual operators rather than gangs with large fleets.
Shocked residents were woken by the three arson attacks across Luton between 2.34am and 2.41am
The arsons were in Connaught Road, Thornhill Road and Wilsden Avenue.
Rajid Khan, a neighbour in Connaught Road, said he grabbed a bucket of water to throw over the flames.
He said: "If we hadn’t got the fire out, the van could have exploded. It’s got electrics to it.
“It could have spread. There are other vehicles right next to the van, and it was close to the houses.”
A neighbour in Thornhill Road said: “It could be somebody targeting him.
“The ice cream business at this time of the year is making good money.
Det Con Cathie Layton said: “We believe all three were started deliberately and we are exploring the possibility they could be linked. “Thankfully nobody was hurt as a result of the fires, but this could have been a lot worse as the vans were all parked near houses."
A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: "No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing."