VANDALS have set fire to a 10-foot cross stolen from a church’s garage.

Community leaders said they were ‘disgusted’ and ‘outraged’ that yobs had burnt the wooden cross on land close to Holy Trinity C of E Church in Blackburn. The cross, which was burnt on a bonfire, has been used for more than 30 years in the Good Friday procession from Little Harwood to Larkhill.

Police said a gang of youths ransacked the outbuilding connected to the church’s worship centre, also stealing a mattress, ladder and other household items.

Officers said they did not believe the incident was racially or religiously motivated.

Rev Ron Mulligan, who leads the congregation at Holy Trinity, said: “It’s just mindless vandalism. This is not the first time it has happened but it seems to be the way society is going nowadays.”

Other attacks on the church recently include broken windows, holes being punched in doors, arson attacks and a scooter driven into the church.

Long serving church warden George Harrison, who has worshipped at Holy Trinity for 70 years, raised the alarm after discovering the church’s garage door broken on Tuesday morning.

He said: “They seem to have done this maliciously, because this time they have smashed the door to smithereens.

“Most of us travel from far and wide to worship at Holy Trinity. We are trying to keep the place in existence and when these types of things happen it’s so disheartening.

“It’s unlikely that we will replace the cross and the Easter march between the various churches in the neighbourhood will probably be disbanded too.

“I don’t even think our insurance will cover the cost of a new door for the garage because we’ve had so many attacks now. We want to get a steel one to better safeguard the worship centre.”

Mr Harrison said a new door would cost £600 but the church was only likely to get £200 from its insurance.

The extra money will have to come from the church’s funds, provided by the congregation.

Glynis Scott, the manager of nearby Bowden Court sheltered housing scheme, said: “Groups of teenagers are always hanging around here.

“We have had a lot of vandalism at the local school and the church.

“I think it is disgusting. You do see police around but never when it’s happening.

“I now worry for some of the older people here who are in their 90’s because they are always doing things close to the home.”

Little Harwood Coun Abdul Patel said: “I am really shocked that someone has broken into church property and stolen items to burn, especially a cross.

“This should not be happening. In my view if anyone takes anything from anywhere without permission that is bad but from a church it is really bad.”

Coun Mike Lee, opposition leader on Blackburn Council, said: “It is a real shame, especially when a church cannot go a few days with incident.

“People no longer seem afraid of the consequences of their actions.

“They are given ASBOs and nothing is done even if they break the ASBO 25 times.

“No one has respect for other people’s property anymore.”

Police have now launched an investigation into the incident.

Insp Abid Khan, of Blackburn police, said: “We are investigating a report of the theft of a number of items from a garage in Larkhill Blackburn, which included a large cross.

“Whilst these inquiries are at an early stage it would be disappointing to find that this was anything other than young children being mischievous and finding wood for a bonfire.

“I would ask anyone who may have been in the area and may have seen anything suspicious to come forward and contact police.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101.