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Cops yet to discover cause of clipper blaze

PUBLISHED: 18:41 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:43 25 August 2010

LONDON - APRIL 24:  The front of the Cutty Sark is removed as part of an ongoing conservation project in Greenwhich on April 24, 2008 in London, England. The counter which is made of wrought iron will be taken off for electrolysis and repair. The section has been removed as part of the original conservation plan before fire broke out on the vessel last year.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

LONDON - APRIL 24: The front of the Cutty Sark is removed as part of an ongoing conservation project in Greenwhich on April 24, 2008 in London, England. The counter which is made of wrought iron will be taken off for electrolysis and repair. The section has been removed as part of the original conservation plan before fire broke out on the vessel last year. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

2008 Getty Images

POLICE investigating the cause of the Cutty Sark fire are still without answers nearly a year after the spectacular blaze.

POLICE investigating the cause of the Cutty Sark fire are still without answers nearly a year after the spectacular blaze.

Chief Executive of the Cutty Sark Trust, Richard Doughty, admitted the police are no closer to finding the fire's cause but that they are certain it wasn't caused by Cutty Sark Enterprises' negligence.

He spoke to the Times as conservation workers carefully removed the ship's delicate rudder-bearing counter last Thursday, as the trust's £25 million restoration project nears completion.

Mr Doughty said: "A lot of people show surprise at how long the investigation is taking, but I think that shows how thorough they are being.

"We are in regular contact with Scotland Yard and I think it is unlikely from discussions I have had that there will be any news before the anniversary.

"You can certainly rule out negligence. They are satisfied that there has not been negligence so it would not affect the insurance."

The cost of the restoration project shot up by £10 million after fire ravaged the famous clipper on the morning of May 21 last year, bringing the total cash needed to £35 million.

The project has been saved by two grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) totalling £23 million, Mr Doughty revealed.

He admitted the 10-month delay caused by the fire has caused costs to spiral.

He said: "My nerves have been a hell of a lot better since January, when we got the Heritage Lottery Funding. We could be looking at a very different project. If they had not stepped forward for a second time to save us we would only have been able to save the ship.

"The winch that will hold her off the ground and the glass skirt around her would never have been possible.

"We will release a statement on the anniversary, but I can assure you we won't be having any bonfires of fireworks."

The next landmark in the operation is due in August, when the iron frame weighing around 350 tonnes will be permanently hoisted three metres off the ground using hydraulic jacks.

The Cutty Sark Trust is still trying to raise £4 million to complete the project, which started in November 2006. To donate visit http://www.justgiving.com/cuttysarkfire.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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