Victims of Lewes arson attack speak out: ‘We are all just broken, hurt and angry’

Six horses, a dog and a cat were killed in an arson attack last week (January 16) in Lewes.
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The emergency services were called to Kayben Stud Farm in Lewes on the morning of January 16 to reports of a barn fire. The fire killed six horses, a dog and a cat.

Barbara Joyce is the owner of the yard and lives in Rodmell with her daughter Torie - just a five minute walk from the yard. Barbara and Torie work with the horses everyday.

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Charlotte Rayner-Gray, Barbara’s other daughter, who also works with the horses each day, said the fire was ‘the worst sight’ she’s ever seen.

Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210121-072306001Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210121-072306001
Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210121-072306001

Charlotte said Torie called her at 6am that morning.

She said, “She was just screaming, crying and being sick. My heart sunk straight away. She told me to get to the yard as quick as I could.

“I had no idea what to expect, my heart was going in overdrive. I wasn’t allowed into the yard but I could tell it was bad.”

Charlotte said Torie was ‘hysterial’ and Barbara was ‘sobbing’.

Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110704001Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110704001
Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110704001
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After taking her mum home, Charlotte returned to the yard to start the clear up.

She said, “In the afternoon me, my husband and some great friends went to help clear the yard. It was the worst sight I’ve ever seen.

“I tried to stay strong for my sister. We kept ourselves busy whilst local farmers helped dispose of the bodies. I stayed as long as I could but when my mum rang me crying I had to go support her.

“None of us have slept much since that day. We are all just broken, hurt and angry.

Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110714001Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110714001
Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110714001
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Torie has lost all her horses as it was her building that was burnt down.

Charlotte said, “These horses where her whole world, she never has days off or holidays - they always came first.”

Two men, aged 40 and 24, were arrested on suspicion of arson and they have been released on conditional bail until February 13 while enquires continue, according to Sussex Police.

Since the fire, Charlotte has set up a funding page to try and rebuild the destroyed buildings - so far the page stands at £12,000.

Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110724001Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110724001
Photo from Barbara Joyce SUS-210120-110724001
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Charlotte said, “We don’t have a lot of money and we can’t afford to just replace everything, but we have been overwhelmed with everyone’s generosity. So many people have surrounded us with kindness love and support.”

Amanda Slim, a friend of the family, posted about the fire on Facebook. She said, “What upsets me the most is that the Joyce’s aren’t rich ‘horsey’ people, their horses are the ones that nobody else wants. Torie takes the unwanted, not perfect, ‘dangerous’ horses and ponies and nurtures them into top level show animals.

“They throw open their gates to families who could never in a million years afford a pony, they’ve helped countless vulnerable women and children find peace in this quiet corner of Sussex, given lost teenagers a place to go and probably rescued as many people as they have animals.

“I hope they find it within themselves to carry on, we are all struggling with the loss. That barn wasn’t just a fancy horse yard, it was a sanctuary and a home to so many.

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“This community needs to pull together and rebuild the barn and the Joyce’s faith in humanity. If you can’t donate then offer a kind word or a prayer and for anyone that knows them share some happy memories.”

The funding page can be found here: