TWELVE beach huts have been damaged in a wrecking spree by vandals.
Thugs set about smashing windows and tearing off doors and locks from huts in an area known as section C of Hayling Island beach, just past The Inn on the Beach restaurant, in the early hours of yesterday morning.
The damage was discovered by firefighters who had been called by a member of the public who noticed bonfires had been started in front of and between the huts.
The fires are believed to have been started deliberately, some time between 1am and 2.10am.
The vandalism has sent shock waves through the close-knit community of beach hut owners on the island.
Joyce Clark, from Hayling, owns a beach hut further along Sea Front.
She said: ‘My reaction is one of complete horror and disgust.
‘That level of vandalism isn’t just high jinks.
‘It’s an absolute disgrace. The beach huts tend to become people’s little worlds and you fill them with things you love.
‘I’d be devastated if that sort of thing happened to mine and I feel very sorry indeed for the people this has happened to.’
Susan Hay also has a beach hut further down the beach.
She said: ‘It must be awful to have discovered this has happened to your beach hut.
‘I honestly can’t think of anything worse. People keep lots of stuff in their beach huts – it’s a little home from home.
‘I believe it was section C where 16 beach huts were burned down last year. It’s such a shame.’
Police are now in the process of identifying and contacting all the huts’ owners to establish if anything has been stolen.
PC Simon Smith, who is investigating the incidents said: ‘Damage on this scale is unusual in Hayling Island and I would appeal for anyone who knows anything about it to contact us and help with our investigation.
‘We believe these incidents happened between 1am and 2am this morning, so, although it’s a generally quiet time of day, it is possible that someone may have seen someone acting suspiciously in the area.
‘We have spoken to witnesses and we will follow all lines of inquiry.
‘We will also increase patrols in the area.
‘This sort of petty, mindless vandalism has a real and detrimental impact on people’s quality of life, and it mustn’t be forgotten that any fire has the potential to spread out of control, endangering both property and people’s lives.’
Anyone with any information should call PC Smith at Hayling Island police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.