METAL thieves sunk to a new low by trying to hack down a £100,000 miners statue just days after it was unveiled to the public.
Former pitmen, their families and members of the community have spent years raising funds to get the monument.
But their hard work has been ruined after vandals used a saw to try to cut down the statue in Front Street, Concord.
The attack has left those who worked to raise the money devastated.
Derek Sleightholme, 77, of Washington Miners and Community Heritage Group, said: “I was afraid to tell all the lads this has happened because I knew they would be so upset.”
The statue depicts a miner being handed a food tin by a small boy with a woman watching on.
The shameless burglars tried to hack through the legs of the boy in an early-morning raid.
Just hours before it happened Washington Banner Group had photographs taken with their banners next to it.
It was last Saturday that the tribute, made by sculptor Carl Payne, was first shown to the public, with Durham Miners Brass Band performing at the ceremony.
Sunderland City Council roadsweeper Mark Spooler was one of the first to see the damage as he began his morning shift in Concord.
Mr Spooler labelled those who carried out the attempted theft as “mindless thugs”.
He said: “It’s unbelievable that people would try to do this just to get a few quid.
“There was a cigarette left in the miner’s mouth but when I looked down I realised someone had tried to saw through the boy’s legs.
“The lads must be devastated with all the fund-raising they’ve done.”
Members of Washington Banner Group have been hard at work for the past three years generating cash for the piece.
Donations from the public as well as Sunderland City Council’s Community Chest fund and Durham Miners’ Association provided money to help it become a reality.
Washington North ward councillor John Kelly said the attempted theft had “disgusted” people in the area.
“It’s had a massive impact. People have been crying they are so upset.”
Coun Kelly added that police were now stepping up security around the statue by putting clearwater technology on the statue so that if anyone tries to steal parts of it there DNA will be left.
Detectives are now looking at CCTV footage from a camera which is focused on the statue to try and find those responsible.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “Between 12.15am and 1.20am on Tuesday, police received a report of a statue having been damaged in Front Street, Concord, in Washington.
“The offenders appear to have tried to cut through the legs of the statue, possibly with some kind of Stihl saw.
“Inquiries into the damage are ongoing and anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101 ext. 69191.”