A bronze crucifix has been stolen from the war memorial of a Norwich city centre church in what police described as an 'abhorrent' theft.

Eastern Daily Press: How the St Peter Mancroft war memorial originally looked. SubmittedHow the St Peter Mancroft war memorial originally looked. Submitted (Image: Submitted)

Police are investigating after the theft was discovered earlier this week at St Peter Mancroft.

The cross sat in the very centre of the memorial, surrounded by six metal plaques bearing the names of the fallen from the First World War.

Church council secretary Colin Pordham said: 'This was an absolutely appalling and sacrilegious act.

'We do not know exactly when it was stolen, but when Robert, one of our regular volunteers, spotted it had gone we were deeply saddened.'

Mr Pordham added: 'I have no idea what got into the mind of the person who stole it, to carry out such an appalling act.

'I don't know whether this was an anti-Christian act but it is certainly incredibly disrespectful.

'I have been involved with the church for around 50 years now. I have seen broken windows and lead thefts in this time, but never anything like this.'

He is now hoping that anybody who can help locate the stolen cross will step forward and get in touch with the church.

He said: 'We need all the help we can get in seeing its safe return. I just hope it is still intact - it is so important that it is returned.

'Everybody from the church is deeply upset by it.'

The memorial has been used in the past by the Norfolk and Norwich Combined Ex-Services Association during Armistice Day services.

Chairman Brian Wilson said: 'I'm disgusted - I feel terrible for the families of those named on the plaques.

'It's absolutely disgraceful that somebody would do this to a memorial, after people gave so much to their countries during the war.'

Mr Wilson, who served in Germany during the Cold War, added: 'I would not be here today if it wasn't for the courageous people who fought in the Great War.

'I feel very passionately about remembering, and places like the Mancroft deserve to be spots for quiet remembrance and respect, so I'm devastated this has happened.

'I hope if the person who did this is found that they lock them up and throw away the key.'

Police have launched inquiries into the theft, with it believed to have happened some time between 8am on July 27 and 5pm on August 8.

Investigating officer PC Hollie Blaker said: 'All crime is unacceptable but targeting a war memorial inside a church is particularly abhorrent.

'I would like to encourage witnesses to contact me if they saw any suspicious behaviour around the memorial or have any information about the location of the cross.

'If you want to remain anonymous, you can also make contact through crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or via their anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.'