VANDALS tried to steal giant sculptures worth thousands of pounds that had just been installed at a Sunderland park.
Three of the four wooden figures at Thompson Park in Southwick were smashed when the would-be thieves attempted to roll them away.
The intricate pieces were discovered damaged in another part of the park and have now been taken back to a council warehouse.
Now only one of the sculptures remain intact.
The figures were made by Groundwork and designed with the help of young people from the Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project.
Youth worker Julie Foster says the group is devastated: “We’re all really upset and annoyed.
“We’re disgusted to think someone could attempt to steal something so large and damage it like this.
“The young people really took ownership of the sculptures and they loved them. A lot of time and effort went into them. It’s mindless.”
Staff at the park are equally angry.
Park gardener Eddie Rowntree said: “What do these people want to achieve? They won’t leave anything alone.”
The statues were unveiled by the Mayor of Sunderland Coun Norma Wright at a ceremony last month, with Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson describing it as “a celebration of what has been achieved with the help of the community”.
Inspector Tony Carty, of Northumbria Police, described the incident as “despicable” and called on the public to contact the police with any information.
He added: “Rather than vandalism, this does seem to have been an attempted theft. Obviously, they have realised the sculptures were a bit heavy and they gave up.
“It is disgusting. Whenever you try to do something to get local people to come together, there always seems to be someone who will try and ruin it.”
Jean Fraser, 53, of Southwick, said: “It’s such a shame. They’d only been there a few weeks.”
Geoff Morrison, 61, of Monkwearmouth, who regularly walks through the park, said: “Whenever we get something good, it’s just destroyed or stolen. Why can’t people just let things be?”
Coun James Blackburn, portfolio holder for attractive and inclusive city at Sunderland City Council, said: “A great deal of time and effort from young people and community organisations was put into the creation of the wooden sculptures in Thompson Park. We are extremely disappointed that someone has attempted to steal the sculptures and in doing so has also damaged them.
“Thankfully the sculptures have been recovered and are being stored in one of our depots while we assess the damage and look at ways in which we can reinstate them securely to prevent this happening again.”
Anybody with information is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101.