Memorial statues commemorating the First World War Armistice were stolen ‘barely hours’ after Remembrance Day services in West Sussex, police have confirmed.
Sussex Police issued an appeal today to bring those responsible to justice in the ‘callous’ spate of thefts of the silhouette soldiers, sailors and airmen in parishes across Chichester and Arun.
The ‘silent soldier’ silhouettes to mark 100 years since the end of the Great War were produced by the Royal British Legion and distributed in return for £250 donations to the charity’s Poppy Fund in communities across the county.
But in several communities in Chichester and Arun, the striking black effigies made of weatherproof plastic and aluminium have been removed.
A police spokesman said residents who intended that the statues should remain in memory of those who gave their lives in Britain’s conflicts have been ‘appalled and outraged’ by their loss.
He said: “The latest theft of a ‘silent soldier’ took place overnight between 6pm on Sunday (November 18) and 6am on Monday (November 19).
“The silhouette was removed from a concrete plinth at the junction of the B2138 Lower Street and Sandy Lane at Fittleworth, near Petworth.
“Two others thefts occurred barely hours after Remembrance Day services had taken place.
“Two silhouettes were stolen from Emsworth between 8pm on Sunday, November 11 and 9.30am on Tuesday, November 13.
“And another went between 5pm on Sunday, November 11 and 11am on Monday November 12 from a site beside the A272 at Lodsworth, Petworth.”
It follows a similar loss of statues of an airman and a sailor at St Mary’s Church in Petworth on September 5.
A silhouette erected outside the Co-Op store in Main Road, Yapton, also vanished overnight on August 29 and 30 at the hands of thieves.
Police said they have been unable to determine who has carried out the thefts and why, or whether the incidents may be linked.
But Inspector Danny West, of the Arun and Chichester prevention team, said he shared residents’ ‘disbelief and anger’ at the spate of thefts.
He said: “Why anybody should decide to steal a symbol of the suffering and sacrifice of our armed forces is difficult to comprehend.
“I can assure residents that we will pursue any line of enquiry rigorously in an effort to recover the silhouettes and bring those responsible to justice.”
Anyone with information about any of the incidents is asked to contact officers online or by phoning 101, quoting serial numbers 78 of 03/09 (Yapton), 1097 of 05/09 (Petworth), 793 of 13/11 (Lodsworth), 1457 of 14/11 (Emsworth) or 834 of 21/11 (Fittleworth).
Alternatively please contact Crimestoppers or phone the independent charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Anyone seeing any suspicious activity or vehicles around war memorials should call police by dialling 999 immediately.