A PUB was gutted after arsonists set it ablaze in the early hours of the morning.

Emergency services attended The Queen’s Hotel pub, in Berechurch Road, Colchester, shortly after 2am on Friday.

The pub was severely damaged by the fire, which started at about 2am on Friday morning.

On arrival, fire crews reported about 10 per cent of the building was alight and a fire in the ground floor, measuring about 10 sq m, had caused the building to be completely smoke logged.

A investigation found the fire was set deliberately and Essex Police has now launched an investigation.

No one is believed to have been injured.

A passer-by described the scene hours after the blaze was extinguished.

He said: “The fire was out by the morning but it made a mess of the pub and police were there.

“I cycled past at about 6am on the way home from work, I saw it was all cordoned off with tape and police were outside.”

He added: “I slowed down and could smell a strong burning smell, you could see the place was gutted, there was black rising up from outside the ground floor windows so it looked like it could be quite intense.

“I could still smell smoke and burning as I rode past so it must’ve happened in the early hours, it was still dark but you could clearly see it was ruined.”

Firefighters extinguished the fire quickly after the owner had used a fire extinguisher to keep it under control until they arrived.

Crews were able to restrict damage to the ground floor of the pub, which has suffered from substantial smoke and heat damage.

Ward councillor Dave Harris (Lab) went along to the scene the following morning to speak to fire officers.

He said he was glad nobody was hurt but was shocked to hear what had happened.

The pub owner is understood to live above the pub. He was contacted for comment but no response was received.

Mr Harris added: “I think it’s such a shame a community pub has been ruined, and for the people living there it is threatening their lives.

“I am devastated this happened in a peaceful neighbourhood and in a friendly pub. I hope the building is repaired quickly as we cannot allow vandals to ruin our way of life.”

Call 101with information.