Security warning after arson attack

TOP trainers based in the nation's home of horseracing have been urged to ensure their security is tight following an arson attack at a farm run by one of the industry's leading figures.

TOP trainers based in the nation's home of horseracing have been urged to ensure their security is tight following an arson attack at a farm run by one of the industry's leading figures.

Workers at Sheikh Mohammed's Church Hall Farm were forced to move a mare and foal to safety during the massive blaze, which caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the premises at Woodditton, near Newmarket.

Although no valuable thoroughbred horses were injured during the incident, arson prevention advice has now been given to the scores of trainers based in the county who take responsibility for millions of pounds worth of racehorses each year.

“No animals were injured in the incident, although one mare and foal had a very narrow escape and were hastily moved to safety,” said a spokesman for the Darley Stud, which owns the Woodditton site.


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“Currently the area is sealed off and an investigation is underway by Cambridge Constabulary as the circumstances are thought to be suspicious.”

The spokesman said a hay shed had been completely destroyed by the blaze, with two other buildings left severely damaged.

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Speaking after Sunday afternoon's incident, Clive Brittain, a top Newmarket trainer, said: “What sort of weak minds do something like this? You just cannot fathom it. It is just shocking.

“Animals which are shut up have no chance, and it just makes you wonder how anybody could have this stupid mentality.”

A spokesman for the Arson Prevention Bureau said: “Our general advice, particularly where animals are involved, is to do everything you can to reduce the risk of an arsonist getting into premises to start with.

“Stables are very difficult as racecourses by their very nature are open, so challenge anyone on the premises who you do not recognise, keep combustible materials safe and make sure you have good security - especially at night.

“Hazardous materials should be kept in a safe and secure area, and make sure the farm or stable is as tidy as possible as hay and feed can be quite combustible.”

Around 25 firefighters from Cambridgeshire and Suffolk were called to tackle the blaze, which broke out at around 2.30pm.

A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire police confirmed the blaze was suspected to be arson, and appealed for anyone with information to contact detectives.

“This fire has caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the farm and it is fortunate no one was injured,” she said.

“It is vital we find out how this fire was started and any information you have, no matter how small or insignificant you feel may be, could help us do that.

“I would appeal to anyone in the Maypole Lane area early on Sunday afternoon who may have seen or heard anything suspicious, to contact the police.”

Anyone with information about the fire, which broke at about 2.30pm, should contact Parkside Police Station on 0845 456 4564 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

n Police in Suffolk are investigating to establish the cause of a potentially suspicious fire at an engineering works in Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds.

Firefighters were called to O'Brien's Engineering, on the Shepherd's Grove Industrial Estate, after a blaze broke out in a sawdust dryer at around 5.30pm on Sunday.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said officers were investigating to determine the cause of the fire, and appealed for anyone with information to contact Pc Simon Collins on 01284 774100.

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