TWO horses have been killed in a fire that engulfed a stable block in Astley Bridge this morning.
The animals were trapped inside the wooden building off Hathaway Drive, Astley Bridge, when the fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately, took hold at 4.45am.
Petrol and firelighters were found at the scene and there are thought to have been several places where the fire started.
Firefighters put out the flames but were unable to save the horse and pony.
The alarm was raised by neighbours who spotted the flames.
The stable owner, David Davies, was due to sell the stables, his nearby home and riverbank land at auction later this week.
He told the Bolton News that he was horrified when he went to the scene at 6am.
"It was just horrendous. I can't envisage how anyone could do anything like that," he said.
He built the stable block several years ago to house his own horses, but for the last eight months he has rented it out to a local woman and her daughter to use for their own horse and pony.
They are said to be devestated by the incident.
"They loved them to bits," said Mr Davies.
Det Con Dave Harris, from Bolton CID, said: "This was a deliberate fire that caused the death of two horses.
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"The owner is understandably very distressed and we want to find out who did this as soon as possible
"We have launched a joint investigation with the fire service.
"I would urge anyone who may have seen someone acting in a suspicious manner around the stables to contact police."
Land owner David Davies
The horses – Penny and General – were owned by Sam Brierley and John Knowles.
Mr Knowles told reporters at the scene: “Penny was a 27-year-old Shetland. She was fit and healthy. My daughter looked after her. A 10-year-old’s baby has been taken away from her.”
Mr Knowles wrote on Facebook that the culprits had “destroyed their lives”.
He added: “We are totally distraught with the death of General and Penny and if anyone has any information, please get in touch.”
Ms Brierley added: “I got a phone call to say the stables were on fire and I just needed to get here. Apparently I collapsed.
“I just don’t know what to say. They’ve gone. I’m not going to get them back. They were everything. I spend a big part of my life here. I feel like my heart has been ripped out. There will be an investigation and we just have to wait. Now I have to organise for my hoses to be removed.”
Anyone with information can phone police on 0161 8565772 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
Police confirmed the incident is being treated as arson and fire investigators are now at the scene.
No arrests have been made.