A WOMAN who was baptised at a church desecrated by vandals days before Christmas has started a fund to repair the damage.

Beth Carr, 70, of Consett, County Durham, was furious to read in The Northern Echo that the 5ft calvary had been torn from the wall at St George's Church, in South Moor, near Stanley, County Durham.

The 80-year-old depiction of Christ on the cross, in bronze, was snapped at the waist and dumped in the church grounds some time last week.

After reading yesterday's report, Mrs Carr, a former chief reporter of the Stanley News, contacted The Echo to say she wanted pledge cash to help get the damage repaired.

Mrs Carr is donating £100 to start a fund to get the statue repaired.

She said: "I was outraged when I read the story that this sort of thing could happen there. It is terrible - and South Moor is not a wealthy parish.

"I wanted to contribute and I hope the campaign gets a good response. I hope the community will pull together and show the people who did this that we are uniting."

Mrs Carr condemned those responsible for damaging the religious figure just before Christmas.

She added: "I think it was done deliberately because it is so close to Christmas.

"Something inside their evil little imaginations wants to spoil it for everyone else."

The fundraising campaign was welcomed by the Reverend John Simmons, vicar at St George's Church, last night.

He said a man from Northumberland has also offered to repair the sculpture for free after seeing the story in The Echo.

The church is now looking at its options, but the Rev Simmons said any donations would be put into a church fund and spent on another statue or improving church security.

He said: "I am very moved by the interest people have shown and their desire to help.

"It is diametrically opposed to my feelings for the people who committed this act. It shows that there is some Christmas goodwill around."

To make a donation, write to the Rev John Simmons, St George's Church Vicarage, South Moor Road, South Moor, Stanley. Cheques should be made payable to South Moor Parochial Church Council.

Police are investigating and asked anyone with information to call PC Mick Burns on 0845 60 60 365.