Arson attack wrecks boats

The peace of a Broads' beauty spot was shattered in the early hours today as six boats were set ablaze in an arson attack. .

The peace of a Broads' beauty spot was shattered in the early hours today as six boats were set ablaze in an arson attack.

All that was left of three of the 20ft-long vessels was a blackened mast lying on the bank of the waterway where about a dozen boats were moored next to the National Trust's Horsey Mill, along the coast from Yarmouth.

The other three boats suffered thousands of pounds of fire damage in the attack which Broads Beat officer PC Jon Hopes said had ruined boat owners' pride and joy and disrupted an idyllic tourist destination.

The blaze was spotted at 4.50am by a local man who had come for his weekly morning fishing session.

Neil Kenwright, of Horsey, said he thought there was an unseasonal morning mist on the water as he unpacked his fishing gear next to the mill, until he realised that it was smoke from the boats which were alight.

Two fire engines and a rescue boat came to tackle the blazes after he called the fire service.

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Mr Kenwight said: “I have lived here 15 years and you don't expect this sort of crime to happen here.”

He told police investigators that there was rubbish from nearby bins strewn across the grass. Police said that the rubbish could have been used to fuel the fire, which was thought to have been started on one boat and then been blown across to the others by the wind.

An investigation had been launched as PC Hopes said it was being treated as arson.

He said: “This is a very quiet, beautiful spot at the height of the holiday season. There are lots of people here enjoying the area and people's enjoyment has been ruined. You just can't imagine the mentality of people who do something like this.

“If anyone knows anybody who came home smelling of smoke or accelerant like petrol, or someone who might be bragging about this, then please get in touch.”

Broads Authority ranger Tony Risebrow went to the fire in his boat to lend waterborne assistance to fire crews and stop debris and oil escaping into The Broads network of rivers.

Other officers from the authority went ahead by car with floating booms to put across the entrance to the mooring site to stop charred wood escaping, as Mr Risebrow took an hour and a half to motor there in his cruiser.

He said: “We were very fortunate about where this happened because it is contained in there. They were not large diesel craft so the pollution was not bad. It could have been a lot worse, although it is still a tragedy for people whose boats they were.”

The £7,500 cruiser Tinkerbell, which sunk, was owned by Derek Applegate, 72, who collects mooring fees at the site, and his wife Jean, 71.

She said: “We have had Tinkerbell for 10 years. We are very upset. I used to go fishing in it and our grand children used it. The people who did this want their necks rung.”

Meanwhile David Darby, 69, who expected the damage to his motor cruiser to cost around £1,300, was trying to remain philosophical, saying: “That's life. This is our hobby and we just have to hope it can be fixed ASAP for the summer. We are lucky that our boat did not sink.”

t Call PC Jon Hopes at Hoveton Police Station on 0845 456 4567 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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