THIEVES have stolen holly from trees at Hollybush church, destroying three mature trees in the process.

The associate vicar of All Saints' Church, Rev Joy Birkin, said everyone connected with the church was saddened by the attack on Monday evening.

"This is a churchyard full of very beautiful holly trees," she said.

"One of the trees, a full and mature variegated holly, has been hacked to such an extent that it now has just three spindly branches left looking terribly sad at the top of the tree. We're talking about very expensive trees; they are trained on a trunk to branch from high up so whoever did this must have had ladders and saws.

"They also trampled about over the graves quite indiscriminately. They cut these branches down, dragged them across graves to the clear space and chopped them there. It is a great sadness."

Church organist Alan Greatwood, one of three local residents who tend the churchyard, added: "I can only think they came for the holly because three variegated trees with berries were cut off. It was a very lovely little churchyard and was well kept so this is soul destroying.

"I expect the trees are about 15 to 20 years old. They were just developing into very nice, attractive trees."

West Mercia police have asked anybody who saw anyone acting suspiciously or unusual parked vehicles to contact them on 01905 723888.