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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK
Owners say pier fire was deliberate
Part of the pier collapses
Just a metal skeleton was left at the pavilion end after the fire
The owners of Brighton's West Pier have said they believe a devastating fire was started by someone strongly opposed to the building's restoration.

Flames tore through part of the Victorian pier on 28 March, leaving just a metal skeleton at the pavilion end.

Police said on Thursday they were investigating reports that someone had been seen firing flares into the structure from a dinghy.

Owners West Pier Trust said they believed the fire was arson - started by someone who did not want to see millions spent repairing the structure.

'Put themselves at risk'

Rachel Clark, of the West Pier Trust, said: "It's very distressing that someone would feel so strongly about the pier and that they obviously don't want to see it restored.

"They have gone to these lengths and put themselves at considerable risk, apart from anything else - but I cannot really see any other reason for the fire."

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Fowler, of Brighton and Hove CID, said police were following a number of reports in their arson investigation.

He said: "We are keen to speak to anybody who has any particular sighting around that time or anybody perhaps acting suspiciously - or indeed an idea of how the fire started."

An officer from East Sussex Fire Brigade said the fire had made the 137-year-old pier so unsafe it was too risky to send fire investigation officers on to it so the cause might never be known.

A 30m scheme to restore the pier, which has been closed to the public since 1975, is still going ahead after it was agreed by Brighton and Hove City Council.




SEE ALSO:
Flare link to West Pier fire
03 Apr 03  |  England
West Pier destroyed by fire
28 Mar 03  |  England
In pictures: West Pier fire
28 Mar 03  |  Photo Gallery
Pier restoration plans approved
26 Feb 03  |  England
Pier re-opens after fire
05 Feb 03  |  England
Brighton Pier hit by fire
05 Feb 03  |  England


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