POLICE say the controversial merger of two independent schools is “an important line of inquiry” after a headteacher had bleach thrown in his face in a sickening attack.
Jim Keefe, from Arnold School, suffered the terrifying ordeal on the doorstep of his South Shore home while his family were inside.
And parents of children at the school said they found it difficult to believe it was “a random attack”.
Speculation has mounted the merger of the South Shore school with rival King Edward and Queen Mary’s School (KEQMS) may be connected to the incident.
Det Chief Insp Sue Cawley, leading the investigation for Blackpool Police, said: “We’ve been in touch with governors, heads and deputy heads at the schools to reassure them and speak about any concerns they may have with people’s actions during the merger.
“There have been some strong feelings expressed but nothing at all of this nature. Although we can’t say for certain this has anything to do with the merger it is certainly an important line of inquiry.”
The attacker struck at Mr Keefe’s home close to the school at around 7am Tuesday morning. He was taken to hospital but later released and worked from home yesterday.
Parents at Arnold said they were “shocked” and disgusted” by the attack.
One man, who did not want to be named, said: “I find it hard to believe this is a random attack, how often do you hear about someone having bleach thrown in their face?
“I am shocked, if there’s this level of animosity, it makes you wonder what will happen in September when the children go there.”
Police say they are now hoping CCTV will help them identify the attacker as more horrifying details about Mr Keefe’s ordeal emerged.
DCI Cawley added: “Somebody rang the doorbell and Mr Keefe answered, while his two children were inside the house. It got in his eyes and he went to hospital as he had reddening of the skin and sore eyes.
“He has been lucky not to sustain serious injuries. He is actually quite circumspect about the whole thing and just wants to get back to work.
“We are doing a lot of inquiries at the moment with regards to CCTV and hopefully we can identify someone from that.
“It was early morning and people may have seen something. Also if anyone has heard of any information about who may have done this I would urge them to come forward as this was a very nasty attack and we need to find the person responsible.”
Plans to merge the two independent school were given the go-ahead on Friday when the Charities Commission ruled it legal.
The plans to join the schools was met with a storm of protest by parents at KEQMS who formed a No To The Takeover group.
Parents posting on the group’s site today condemned the attacks.
One posting as Ray wrote: “The attack on Mr Keefe was a deplorable act perpetrated by a coward.