The family of a Dorset couple left devastated when their boat was destroyed in an arson attack have launched a fundraising appeal.

The 35ft boat went up in flames on the River Frome at around 9.20pm on Sunday evening in the area of Swineham Point, east of Wareham.

Dorset Police are seeking witnesses to come forward following the arson attack. Officers are keen to trace three men who were seen in the area at the time of the incident. They are described as white and aged in their 30s.

Richard Martindale, who had owned the Cranchi 35 Endurance boat Hot Flush with his partner Pat, for the past three years said they had spent every spare penny on it.

Unfortunately the boat was not covered by insurance.

Richard said: ‘It was our pride and joy. We’re just normal working people, I’m a dust cart mechanic.

‘For years, every penny we mustered together we spent on that boat.

‘We’d just come back from a weekend away, and got home about 6pm on Sunday. We got a phonecall about 8-9pm saying it had caught alight and was completely – gone down to the waterline.’

Family members are fundraising to cover the cost of the boat.

May Whitlock set up the page to raise ‘£5,000 to buy a replacement boat because of a cruel arson attack.’

She said: ‘I am a 79-year-old widow who moved from Somerset to Dorset several years ago to be closer to my daughter who cares for me, including taking care of my apartment, taking me to regular Doctors and Hospital appointments and doing my shopping. I’d love to give something back to her.’

Pat’s daughter Sally Gravener said: ‘I’m so sad for my mum who was called by the police in Wareham following a suspected arson attack on her boat which was moored near Swineham Farm.

‘My mum and Richard live a humble life and have for several years put everything they have into what was their pride and joy.

‘They’ve been so generous in sharing their hobby and are now heartbroken.’

The fundraising page can be found at:

Police appeal

At the time of the incident on Sunday, officers, assisted by the NPAS helicopter, carried out a search of the area but nothing was found.

An investigation is underway into the cause of the fire.

Police Constable Emma Swann, of Purbeck police, said: ‘I am appealing to anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area on Sunday evening to please call me.

‘I am particularly keen to hear from anyone who saw three men in the area of Swineham at the time. I believe these men may have important information that could assist my investigation.’

Witnesses and anyone with information should call Dorset Police in confidence on 101 quoting incident number 7:434.