A COMMUNITY has spoken of its shock after learning flagstones laid in and around church grounds were stolen.
Thieves targeted the slabs, made of Yorkstone, at St Thomas a Becket in Warblington – a place known for its beauty.
It’s thought the theft took place at night on Monday or in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday.
Inside the churchyard four slabs were stolen and three others dug up and moved.
The slabs that made up the pavement outside the church yard wall have been ripped out and taken.
Christopher Morrison, one of the church’s wardens, said: ‘It’s so disappointing to know people want to and are capable of doing things like this.
‘The church is about 1,000 years old and it’s in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
‘Inside the church grounds there are a block of six slabs that’ve been tampered with. Two were stolen and another four taken out, but left behind.
‘Then there’s another larger flagstone on the path towards the church, that has been dug up and left beside its gap. The pavement outside of the church has been completely ripped out.
‘We’ll now have to establish how to replace the stolen slabs and whether or not we can re-fit the ones left behind.
‘If anyone is offered old flagstones for their patio, or knows of work in area where they’re being used, I urge them to contact police.’
The area affected outside the church wall belongs to Hampshire County Council.
Residents in the area have expressed their disappointment about the situation. Sue Watters, 55, was out walking her dog on Tuesday when she saw what had happened.
She said: ‘I felt quite sick looking at the scene. I can’t believe people would do this.
A spokeswoman for Hampshire County Council said: ‘We were very sorry to hear of the theft of these flagstones from the church grounds, and the damage done. The flagstones on the roadside of the church wall are the responsibility of the county council and cost several thousand pounds. Our highways teams will repair the footpath, but as special materials may need to be sourced, this could take some time, so a temporary footpath may be required in the interim. We would ask residents to be alert to anyone trying to sell or install flagstones in the area, and to report any concerns they may have to the police on 101.’
A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘This is an unusual crime and it’s likely to have taken some time and been pre-planned.
‘It’s also likely because of the weight of the stones that more than one person was involved, and they would have needed a vehicle.
‘If anyone saw or heard anything suspicious around the church, please call us on 101 quoting 44170124886.’