Brazen thieves nicked distinctive new cemetery gates - less than 24 hours after they had been installed.
The specially-commissioned ornate gates worth £5,000 and designed by local artist Steve Tomlinson were removed from near the Hebrew section of Linthorpe Cemetery, Middlesbrough.
The thieves struck some time overnight on Wednesday or early yesterday morning.
The theft of the galvanised steel gates depicting the diverse wildlife found in the cemetery has devastated all the people - including St Cuthbert's Youth Group - involved in the year-long creative improvement and restoration project.
They were reported missing by a council employee who came to open up early yesterday.
Barry Coppinger, executive councillor for community safety said: "Everybody involved is distraught.
"It is a nasty and incredibly mean act. This has been a year-long creative project to make an interesting part of Middlesbrough look nicer and it has been destroyed overnight."
The distinctive gates were welded and concreted in place on Tuesday night and painted on Wednesday before then being removed in what "would have needed equipment and sadly misplaced effort," Cllr Coppinger added.
Jackie Elder, Linthorpe independent councillor, said: "It is very sad. Those gates were specially commissioned to represent things going on in the cemetery.
"It is outrageous for somebody to take them. I hope they have the conscience to hand them in. They are precious to us and we want them back."
Anyone who has information is urged to call police on 01642 303126.
Ron Livingstone, Evening Gazette