AN investigation into the cause of a fire which killed 12 horses has found it was “most likely started deliberately”.

The fire took hold in a barn at Elmwood Equestrian Centre in Burnham last month, before spreading out of control and killing the animals inside.

The fire service launched an investigation into the cause initially not ruling out it being accidental or deliberate.

The service has now concluded it was mostly likely arson.

A spokesman said: “The fire investigation has shown that this fire was mostly likely started deliberately.

“The police will continue with their investigation.”

A spokesman for Essex Police confirmed enquiries were ongoing.

The force is treating the blaze as suspicious and has appealed for witnesses.

CCTV cameras at the site were covered on the evening of the fire, on Sunday, December 3, raising suspicions further.

Since the fire a fundraising page has raised more than £20,000 for the centre and hundreds of items have been donated to help those affected by the fire.

The fundraising page will remain open until the end of the month.

A post on the Elmwood Facebook page said: “We have been overwhelmed with the support and generosity shown by so many people at such a tragic time.

“Donations, tributes, practical support and heartfelt condolences have been coming in through social media, events, collections by individuals and groups who have all been touched by the tragedy and losses of our 12 beloved horses.”

On the night of the fire brave teenager Charlie Mecoy, 18, stepped in to save some of the horses after spotting the blaze while driving.

A memorial service was also later held for the lost horses.

Anyone who saw any suspicious vehicles or activity is asked to contact Det Con Andrew Young at Chelmsford CID on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.