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Sussex Police hunt cash raid arsonist
Police are hunting an arsonist who set fire to a hospital so he could raid cash tills as the building was being evacuated.
Officers believe the suspect could be linked to three similar distraction blazes over the past week.
A fire chief has warned the arsonist, who made off with cash from each incident, could kill if he is not stopped.
Mark Rist, Brighton and Hove Borough Commander, has urged the public to help catch the offender before he seriously hurts or even kills someone.
He said: “Fires are so unpredictable and the suspect has no way of knowing what the outcome of his actions might be.”
The first of three blazes in Brighton was started at the Royal Albion Hotel at 2pm on Sunday, August 26.
Mark Rist, Brighton and Hove Borough CommanderThe suspect may only be intending to distract but they don’t know what can happen. They are showing a blatant disregarded for the safety of others
It was followed by fires at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in Pavilion Gardens shortly after noon on Monday, August 27 and at The Sea Life Centre at 4.30pm the same day.
On all three occasions, fire alarms were activated and evacuations carried out.
When staff returned to the buildings it was discovered money had been taken from tills.
A fourth fire was started in a store room at Crawley Hospital on Tuesday, August 28 where cash was stolen from the canteen till.
A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Damage was very limited and there were no injuries, but detectives in Brighton and Crawley are actively investigating the circumstances of each incident and are pursuing joint lines of inquiry.
“But we are currently keeping an open mind as to whether there are definite links between them.”
The Crawley Hospital fire, which was started on the sixth floor, saw hundreds of patients, doctors and nurses evacuated on Tuesday.
The blaze completely destroyed the Comet ward’s store room with smoke and water damage also affecting the it.
Most services are back to normal but the ward, which is made up of a medical day unit, haematology clinic and a chemotherapy clinic, is expected to stay closed for the rest of this week.
A spokeswoman for NHS Sussex said: “Alternative arrangements are in place to accommodate any affected appointments. Every effort is being made to contact as soon as possible patients who are due to use the affected service.”
Commander Rist added: “The suspect may only be intending to distract but they don’t know what can happen. They are showing a blatant disregarded for the safety of others.
“I would ask them to think if whatever they are getting out of this is worth the risk?”
Anyone with information about the the fires should contact police on 101.