Sussex Police have issued a statement on arson investigations launched following the fire on the West Pier 20 years ago.

The West Pier’s pavilion was destroyed in a huge fire that erupted on March 28, 2003 - two decades ago today.

Thousands gathered on the beach and watched on helplessly and in shock as the historic structure burned down.

However, the fire’s cause has been the source of rumours ever since.

Fire crews ruled out the idea of sending investigators to the site amid concerns for their safety.

Ken Bodfish, the then city council leader, told The Argus shortly after the blaze that the real cause was likely to remain a mystery.

He said: “Even if we did establish the cause as arson, it is very unlikely we will ever find out who was responsible.”


The fire, followed by another suspected arson attack in May, effectively put an end to any hopes from the West Pier Trust to restore the pier.

Chief executive of the trust Rachel Clark told The Argus that repair and renovation work was just “weeks away” from beginning when tragedy struck.

Detectives scanned CCTV footage and called for witnesses to come forward in the aftermath of the fire.

Rumours have persisted over a black speed boat seen zooming away from the pier just before the fire, but officers quickly ruled out any involvement by the mysterious vessel and its driver.

Some 20 years on from the blaze, Sussex Police confirmed that, despite significant effort to try and find out the cause of the fire and the person responsible, investigations have proved inconclusive.

A police spokesman said: “Police launched two arson investigations into the circumstances around a fire that destroyed the West Pier in Brighton on March 28, 2003.

“Despite thorough enquiries, both investigations were closed undetected.”